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George Chapman, British Drama 1533–1642: A Catalogue

Martin Wiggins and Catherine Richardson (eds), British Drama 1533–1642: A Catalogue, Vol. 5: 1603–1608

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1439. May Day[Extant]


Printed in 1611 (STC 4980), from clean, possibly authorial copy.



Contemporary: 'witty comedy' (t.p.)

pg 139 title

Printed: May Day

Alternative Modernization: May-Day


George Chapman


Limits: 1601–8

Best Guess: 1604


The limits are established by the title page statement that the play was performed at Blackfriars, and the presumption that it was performed by the resident boy company rather than their successors, the King's Men. Chambers proposed a date of c. 1609 on the basis of a possible imitation of The Gull's Hornbook (1609), but this would require us to suppose that black is white: the company had by then moved to the Whitefriars, and the publisher, John Browne, knew the difference. (The title page of the 1612 edition of The Widow's Tears, 1456, ascribes the play to both venues.) Tricomi's case for 1601 (in ELR) is based on no positive evidence, only an attempt to discredit arguments for a later date; it also requires a very quick turnaround in respect of the imitation of Twelfth Night (1297).

The use of Piccolomini's Alessandro might be taken to suggest composition close to All Fools (1448), in which Chapman uses several character names from the same source. The presence of some strong oaths (including three sbloods and four sfoots) suggests, but does not require, a date before the Act to Restrain Abuses of May 1606. There is a reference to theatrical fashion in 2.4: Lorenzo proposes dressing as a friar for his visit to Francischina, and is told, 'that disguise is worn threadbare upon every stage'. This would support a date some way into 1604: false friars were ubiquitous in 1603–4, in The Merry Devil of Edmonton (1392), Measure for Measure (1413), The Fair Maid of Bristol (1417), Bussy D'Amboise (1428), and The Patient Man and the Honest Whore (1431); they do not seem to have featured very heavily in drama prior to 1603, and they tail off after 1604, as if the vogue had indeed worn itself out.

original production

Children of the Queen's Revels (presumably), at the Blackfriars


It is May morning. In accordance with the season, old Lorenzo is planning an amorous, adulterous adventure with Francischina, and approaches her kinsman Angelo to act as go-between. Francischina's husband too is going out with his gull, Innocentio, who is to observe gentlemanly behaviour at an ordinary. Lodovico makes doubly sure of his absence by introducing him to an admirer, Giovanelli, and they go to a tavern together. He is implicated in a second plot which in turn requires Lorenzo to be away from his home: Lorenzo's daughter Aemilia, whom he plans to marry against her will to Gasparo, loves Aurelio, and Lodovico has promised to bring him to her at the house's rear terrace. Meanwhile, Leonoro conspires with Temperance to win the love of Lucretia, Aurelio's cousin.

Nothing goes entirely according to plan. Lorenzo comes to Francischina disguised as a chimney-sweep, so that he can enter the house without risk to her honour, but Lodovico lets his friends in on the secret and they tease him on the way; later Angelo pretends to be Quintiliano coming home early, and frightens Lorenzo into hiding. Aurelio's assignation with Aemilia turns out to involve more than talking when Lodovico provides a rope ladder and he climbs up onto the terrace, which gives access to her bedroom. Lodovico waits below, muffled in his cloak, and Temperance mistakes him for Leonoro; she invites him in just as the real Leonoro arrives and is taken to Lucretia's chamber. When he gets into bed with her, however, the liaison ends with fighting when he discovers 'her' to be a cross-dressed man. Meanwhile Quintiliano cozens Giovanelli of his money and then returns home drunk to find Lorenzo, still disguised, hiding in his coal-house. Lorenzo goes home in turn and discovers Aurelio and Aemilia together; Angelo helps Aurelio escape while Lorenzo is changing out of his disguise before fetching the Provost to administer justice, then substitutes Francischina in Aurelio's clothes so that Lorenzo will infer that he misunderstood an innocent jest.

Everyone goes to the May night show at Honorio's house, which includes a masque. Leonoro and Quintiliano have the page Lionel cross-dress as a woman with a view to tricking Innocentio into chatting her up. Leonoro confronts Lodovico over his liaison with 'Lucretia', and he explains what happened. In fact 'she' is really Lucretio, whose father was a Sicilian exile and close friend of Aurelio's family. 'Lionel' turns out to be Lucretio's fiancée Theagine, who followed him to Venice; Innocentio ends up with Temperance instead. Lorenzo is persuaded to consent to Aemilia's marrying Aurelio instead of Gasparo.

scene designation

1.1–2, 2.1–4, 3.1–3, 4.1–6, 5.1 (act-divisions Q, scene-divisions Welsh; Q marks scene divisions inconsistently with a ruled line)


The stage is clear during 2.2.


  • A chorus of boys, who sing

  • Signor lorenzo, a little old man, Aemilia's father, Lodovico's uncle

  • Signor angelo, Aurelio's servant, Francischina's kinsman

  • Signor gasparo, Lorenzo's neighbour, an old clown

  • aemilia, Lorenzo's daughter, Lodovico's cousin

  • Signor aurelio, Honorio's son, supposed Lucretia's cousin

  • Signor lodovico, Lorenzo's nephew, Aemilia's cousin, Aurelio's friend; also called Lodowick

  • giacono, Lodovico's associate

  • Captain quintiliano, a swaggerer, Francischina's husband; also called Quint

  • pg 140innocentio, a gull; later appointed Quintiliano's lieutenant and addressed as Lieutenant Innocentio

  • Mistress francischina, Quintiliano's wife, Angelo's kinswoman; poses as a page; also called Mistress Frank

  • fannio, Quintiliano's page

  • lucretia, Honorio's niece and Aurelio's cousin; also called Lucresse; in reality, Lucretio, a Sicilian, betrothed to Theagine

  • Mistress temperance, an old bawd; Lucretia's attendant, formerly Honorio's servant; also called Madam Temperance

  • Signor leonoro, a young gentleman, Lucretia's suitor

  • lionel, Leonoro's page; poses as the niece of Leonoro's father; in reality, Theagine, a Sicilian, betrothed to Lucretio; also called Theagines (the masculine form of her name) by 'Lucretia'

  • Signor giovanelli, a freshman student at the University of Padua, and a gull; later appointed Quintiliano's ensign

  • A tailor, Cuthbert's neighbour; a married man and a father

  • The tailor's son

  • cuthbert Barber, Quintiliano's barber, a newly married man; also called Cutbeard

  • Signor honorio, a gentleman; Aurelio's father, Temperance's former master; supposed Lucretia's uncle

  • A drawer at the Emperor's Head

  • musicians at the Emperor's Head (4.1, non-speaking)

  • A messenger, who reports the arrival of the masquers (5.1)

  • A woman at the May night show (5.1, non-speaking)


Speaking Parts: 22


Stage Directions and Speech Prefixes

chorus: Chorus Iuvenum (s.d.s)

lorenzo: Lorenzo (s.d.s and s.p.s)

angelo: Angelo (s.d.s); Angelo⟩ (s.p.s)

gasparo: Gasparo an old Clown (s.d.s); Gasparo⟩ (s.p.s)

aemilia: Aemilia (s.d.s); Aemilia⟩ | Amilia⟩ (s.p.s)

aurelio: Aurelio (s.d.s); Aurelio⟩ (s.p.s)

lodovico: Lodovico (s.d.s); Lodovico⟩ (s.p.s)

giacono: Giacono (s.d.s); Giacono⟩ (s.p.s)

quintiliano: Quintiliano (s.d.s); Quintiliano⟩ (s.p.s)

innocentio: Innocentio (s.d.s); Innocentio⟩ (s.p.s)

francischina: Fransischina | Francisco | Francischina (s.d.s); Francischina⟩ (s.p.s)

fannio: Fannio (s.d.s); Fannio⟩ (s.p.s)

lucretia: Lucretia (s.d.s); Lucretia⟩ (s.p.s)

temperance: Temperance (s.d.s); Temperance⟩ (s.p.s)

leonoro: Leonoro (s.d.s); Leonoro⟩ (s.p.s)

lionel: Lionell | Lyonell | Lionelle (s.d.s); Lyonell⟩ | Lionell⟩ (s.p.s)

giovanelli: Giovenelle | Giovenelli (s.d.s); Giovenelle⟩ | Geovenelle⟩ (s.p.s)

tailor: Tailor (s.d.s and s.p.s)

son: Tailor's son (s.d.s); Boy (s.p.s)

cuthbert: Cuthbert Barber (s.d.s); Cuthbert⟩ (s.p.s)

honorio: Honorio (s.d.s); Honorio⟩ (s.p.s)

drawer: a drawer (s.d.s); Drawer (s.p.s)

musicians: Music (s.d.s)

messenger: Messenger (s.d.s and s.p.s)

other characters

Lorenzo's neighbours (1.1)

The Duke of Venice (1.2, 3.3)

The hostess of the Lion (1.2)

Innocentio's father, who has twice been Warden of his livery company (1.2, 2.4)

Lucretia's other suitors, about a dozen in number, including Signor Collatine (2.1)

The priest (2.1)

A sow-gelder, Gasparo's father (2.2)

A hundred gentlemen whom Gasparo has ruined (2.2)

Snail, an old chimney-sweeper, whose clothes Lorenzo borrows (2.4, 3.1, 4.1, 5.1)

The Tailor's other children (2.4)

A schoolmaster who teaches the Tailor's Son (2.4)

The Tailor's scolding wife (2.4)

Valentine, Quintiliano's wench (2.4)

Rose, Lorenzo's maid (3.1)

Sam, a drawer at the Emperor's Head (3.3)

Venetian Senators (4.2)

The Provost (4.2, 4.6)

Lorenzo's little brother (5.1)

Leonoro's father, Lorenzo's friend (5.1)

Lucretio's dead father, a Sicilian exile (5.1)

A gentleman whom Lucretio's father killed in self-defence (5.1)

Signor Placentio, for whom Francischina mistakes her masked husband (5.1)


Time-Scheme: The action takes place during a single day, 1 May; 3.3 takes place around 2 p.m., and 5.1 in the evening

Place: Venice



Venice: the Lion inn; the Emperor's Head tavern

Italy: Padua; Sicily

[France]: Bordeaux



Narrative: Alessandro Piccolomini, Alessandro (c. 1545, printed 1550; repr. 1596); Ben Jonson, Every Man Out of His Humour (1216; 1.2); William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night (1297; 3.3)

Verbal: Virgil, Eclogues 8 (3.3); Athenaeus, Deipnosophists (4.5); Monosticha Catonis (4.1); Justinian, Institutes (3.3); The Wandering Prince of Troy (ballad, 1565, earliest extant copy dates from pg 1411608; 2.2); Sir Philip Sidney, Astrophil and Stella (written 1581–2, printed 1591; 3.3); Thomas Kyd, The Spanish Tragedy (783; 1.1); 'Maids in your Smocks' (song, before 1598; 2.4, 3.1); William Shakespeare, Hamlet (1259; 3.3); John Marston, Antonio's Revenge (1271; 4.1)

Works Mentioned: Gesta Romanorum (c. 1300, English tr. 1557; 3.1); Antonio de Guevara, The Golden Book of Marcus Aurelius (1529, English tr. by John Bourchier, Lord Berners, 1534; 3.1); William Baldwin and others, A Mirror for Magistrates (1559–87; 3.1)



Latin: 31 words (1.1, 2.2, 2.4, 3.1, 3.3, 4.1; Angelo, Lodovico, Tailor's Son, Giovanelli, Quintiliano)

Italian: 11 words (2.4, 3.3, 4.1, 4.5; Quintiliano, Lodovico, Giovanelli)

French: 6 words (3.1, 5.1; Honorio, Temperance)


Metre: prose; some pentameter

Rhyme: blank verse

Chorus: the play begins with a chorus of singing, jumping boys; they do not reappear

Act-Division: 5 acts

Lines (Spoken): 2,586 (171 verse, 2,415 prose)

Lines (Written): 2,640


Doors: two characters enter severally (2.1, s.d.); the action of 3.4–4.1 requires three doors leading to the tavern, Lucretia's house, and Quintiliano's coal-house

Stage: mentioned (3.3, s.d.)

Within: speech (4.1, s.d.)

Above: characters appear above (3.2–3, 4.2, 4.6, s.d.; the maximum number up there at once is two); a rope ladder is fixed above and characters climb up and down from the main stage (3.3, 4.2, 4.6, dialogue)


On-Stage Music: fiddles played by Musicians (4.1, implicit)


  1. 1: 1.1, Chorus of Boys;

  2. 2: 'Maids in your smocks', 3.1, Lorenzo, 6 lines.

Other Singing: Quintiliano may sing snatches of song (3.3, 4.1, implicit)

Dance: the Chorus of Boys exit dancing (1.1, s.d.); Quintiliano dances (4.1, dialogue); Aurelio, Leonoro, Quintiliano, and Innocentio dance in the masque, and then with Aemilia, Theagine, Francischina, and the fourth woman (5.1, s.d.)


Weapons: Quintiliano's sword (4.1, dialogue); two rapiers (4.3, s.d.)

Musical Instruments: fiddles (4.1, implicit)

Clothing: two bracelets (1.1, dialogue; 2.4, s.d.)

Money: a purse of gold (1.1, implicit; 2.4, dialogue); a purse containing £20 in gold coins (1.2, s.d.; four angels are taken from it); a purse containing £5 (2.4, dialogue; two crowns are taken from it)

Food and Drink: a cup of wine (3.3, s.d.; drunk on stage); a second cup of wine (3.3, implicit; drunk on stage; but it could be the first cup again)

Small Portable Objects: papers (1.1, s.d.); a bill (2.4, s.d.); a mirror (3.1, s.d.); a pot (3.1, s.d.; contains black face-paint); a towel (3.3, s.d.); a document (3.3, implicit)

Large Portable Objects: seating for one or two characters (2.2, implicit); a rope ladder (3.3, s.d.; 4.2, 4.6, dialogue); a seat (3.3, implicit; but the character sitting may alternatively do so directly on the stage)

costumes and make-up

lorenzo: face painted black (3.1–2, dialogue; 4.1–2, implicit); a chimney-sweep's buckram suit (3.1, dialogue; 3.2, 4.1–2, implicit)

gasparo: is bald (dialogue)

aurelio: a doublet and hat (3.3, 4.2, dialogue; see also under francischina); a mask (5.1, implicit)

lodovico: is clean-shaven (dialogue; a reference to his stroking his beard is a figure of speech); a cloak (3.3, s.d.)

quintiliano: a sleeved garment (1.2, dialogue); a cloak (2.4, dialogue; removed on stage); doublet and hose (3.3, s.d.); a mask (5.1, implicit)

innocentio: a mask (5.1, dialogue)

francischina: red or black hair (dialogue); cross-dressed in Aurelio's clothes, including doublet, hat, close-fitting hose or breeches (4.5–6, implicit), a cloak and possibly short-heeled footwear (dialogue; but 'short-heeled' is also a figure of speech)

fannio: doublet and hose (3.3, s.d.)

lucretia/lucretio: cross-dressed as a woman (2.1, 4.3, implicit); man's clothing (5.1, s.d.)

leonoro: a cloak (3.3, s.d.); a mask (5.1, implicit)

lionel/theagine: cross-dressed as a page (2.3, 3.3, 4.1, 4.4, implicit); bare-headed (2.3, dialogue; but she must be carrying a hat); women's clothing (5.1, s.d.), including a branched gown (dialogue)

giovanelli: doublet and hose (3.3, s.d.)

cuthbert: a hat (2.4, dialogue)

early stage history

'divers times acted at the Blackfriars' by 1611 (and presumably by the spring of 1608).

early textual history

1611: Q printed by William Stansby for John Browne; collation A–K4, 40 leaves; title page names author.

1611 or after: a copy of Q (now in the University of Illinois) was annotated with MS corrections on leaf A2.

Mid-1620s: William Drummond of Hawthornden owned a copy.

c. 1630s: a copy of Q (now in Worcester College, Oxford) lost its first two leaves (A1–2), and they were replaced with MS transcriptions.

pg 142Before 1640: Robert Burton owned a copy of Q.

c. 1630s–40s: a copy of Q was in the possession of John Horne (Vicar of Headington, Oxfordshire). After his death, his entire collection of play-books passed into the possession of John Houghton of Brasenose College, Oxford (c. 1608–77), then to James Herne (died 1685), and then to the library of Ralph Sheldon (1623–84) at Weston, where it was catalogued by Anthony Wood, probably in the late 1670s.

1655: The English Treasury of Wit and Language entered to Humphrey Moseley in the Stationers' Register on Tuesday 16 January.

1655: extract (from 3.3) included in John Cotgrave's The English Treasury of Wit and Language, sigs. V5v–V6r; printed for Humphrey Moseley.

1659: rights transferred from Richard Marriott to Humphrey Moseley in the Stationers' Register on Saturday 11 June; individually named as part of a group transfer of 21 titles; entry names author. (Marriott's father, John, had probably acquired the copy from Browne's widow, Alice, in the 1620s without having it entered in the Register.)

1660: advertised as for sale by Humphrey Moseley.

c. 1663–5: Henry Oxinden of Barham, Kent, had a copy in his possession.

1684: Nicholas Cox (Manciple of St Edmund Hall, Oxford) had a copy in his bookshop. It had probably been previously owned by Gerard Langbaine, and appears on a list compiled by Anthony Wood on Saturday 13 December.


T. M. Parrott, in The Plays and Poems of George Chapman: The Comedies (London, 1914), 163–232.

Robert F. Welsh, in The Plays of George Chapman: The Comedies, gen. ed. Allan Holaday (Urbana, Chicago, and London, 1970), 311–96.


Annals 1602; Beal ChG 12; Beal Online ChG 12.5; Bodleian, MS Wood E. 4, p. 3; Chambers, iii. 256; ELR 12 (1982), 245–6; Eyre & Rivington, i. 463; Greg 297; Hazlitt, 153; Nicolas K. Kiessling, The Library of Robert Burton (Oxford, 1988) 331; The Library, 4th ser., 15 (1934–5), 445–56; The Library, 6th ser., 2 (1980), 61–9; Robert H. MacDonald, The Library of William Drummond of Hawthornden (Edinburgh, 1971), 231; MLR 13 (1918), 401–11; SP 40 (1943), 186–203.

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