Cox of Collumpton
From Lost Plays Database
F. 31 (Greg I.59)
- The 1 of novmb[er] 1599
- W. Haughton receiued of mr.
- Hunslowe in parte of payement. of the
- the tragedie of John Cox the some
- of ... [iij] 20s.
- Willyam Haughtonn receyued of mr Hinchloe in part
- of payment of the Tragedy of Cox of Collunpto[n]
- the som of ... 20s
- pd & quite. John Daye
F. 65 (Greg I.113)
- Lent vnto Robart shaw the 1 of novmb[er] 1599
- to lend vnto wm harton in earneste of a
- Boocke called the tragedie of John cox some of ... xxs
F. 65v (Greg I.114)
- Lent vnto wm harton & John daye at
- the appoyntment of Thomas dowton in earnest
- of a Boocke called the tragedie of cox of
- collinster the some of ... xxs
- the xiiijth of nouember 1599
- Receued of mr phillipp Hinchlow to pay
- to William hauton & Jhon day for the
- tragedy of Cox of Collomton the
- som of three pownd receued ... iijli
- in full
Simon Forman's Notebooks
Simon Forman saw "Cox of Collumpton" at the Rose playhouse on 9 March 1600 and wrote a description of it in his casebooks (MS Ashmole 236, fol. 77v). The following is copied from Cerasano (pp. 157-8):
“Item the plai of Cox of Cullinton & his 3 sonns henry peter and / Jhon on St Markes dai Cox him selfe shote an Arrowe thorow / his vnkells head to haue his Land & had it and the same dai 7 yers / on Mr Jaruis shot cox throughe the hed & slue him. and on saint / markes dai a year after his older sonn henry was drowned / by peter & jhon in his Xan [Christian] fate. and on St Markes dai a year after peter & Jhon both slue them sellues for peter be / ing fronted wth the sight of a bear viz a sprite apering to Jhon & / him when they sate vpon deuision of the landes in likenes of a bere / & ther wth peter fell out of his wites and way lyed in a darke / house & beat out his braines against a post & Jhon stabed him self / & all on St Markes dai & remember how mr hammons sonn / slue him & where he way sleying of his father his father entreating / for mercy to his sonn could find no mercy whervpon he promised / that his sonn should betray him selfe by laughing & so he did / was executed for yt/ 1600 9 of march at the Rose”
In 1599, when paying Haughton and Day for "Cox of Collumpton" the Admiral’s Men were anticipating the move to their soon-to-be-built playhouse, the Fortune, in Middlesex; they were also looking across Maid Lane at their competition in the form of the Chamberlain’s Men, newly moved from Shoreditch to the Globe.
The play was still in production on 9 March 1600 (a Sunday), when Simon Forman saw it at the Rose and recorded a reaction to it in one of his casebooks (see below).
Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues
Greg cited John Payne Collier as having identified the play with “a murder committed at Collumpton in Devonshire,” but Greg himself ws “not aware of any record thereof” (II, item #188, p. 207).
References to the Play
See Simon Forman's commentary on the play, above (Historical Records).
- Cerasano discusses Forman’s visit to the Rose in detail. She provides a transcription from the casebook (see above) and a context of theater history. She points out that "Cox of Collumpton" would have been “fairly new” when Forman saw it (157) and in a note to that observation she adds that, “[g]iven the time required to rehearse and mount the production, Forman might well have attended one of the earliest performances …” (157n). Cerasano describes Forman as not having “any particular critical insight” into the plays he saw, or he might “have noticed some relationship between the bear in Cox of Collumpton and that in The Winter’s Tale" (which he saw in 1611) or “some similarity between Cox’s Peter, who dashes his brains out against a post, and Bajazeth in Tamburlaine the Great, Part I, one of the most popular plays of the period” (158).
- Traister comments on Forman’s visit to the Rose, calling the play Cox of Cullinton, a.k.a., Cox of Collumpton, but provides no further information or transcription beyond the citation of MS Ashmole 236, fol. 77v.
- Rowse reads the date of the performance seen by Forman as 4 March 1600 (26).
- Pitcher addresses the interrelationship of stage business in the playing of bears across "Cox," Mucedorus, and The Winter’s Tale. He finds particularly fruitful the echo of a bear-spirit in added scenes to the 1610 quarto of Mucedorus, where the clown, Mouse, claims to have just seen a bear that was really “some Diuell in a Beares Doublet” (I.ii; qtd in Pitcher, 50).
- Knutson observes that “Forman was fascinated more by the coincidence that the murders all occurred on St. Mark’s Day than by the murders themselves” (27); she appends a note to a summary of Forman’s synopsis in which she adds two points: (1) Forman’s apparent interest in family murders, implied by his digression to the Hammon father-son murders, and (2) Mucedorus, Chamberlain's Men, Q1598, as a theatrical precedent for the Admiral’s Men, should they have decided to dramatize that bear (36n).
- Gurr connects "Cox of Collumpton" with the cluster of true-crime plays in the Admiral’s repertory for 1599, describing it as one of two “plainly journalistic accounts of sensational murders in London” although it is not apparently set in London (38). In the Appendix (item 137), Gurr repeats Henslowe’s entries, footnoting Forman’s entry using Cerasano’s date of 9 March 1600 for the show and providing a transcription of Forman’s entry (Gurr's transcription has minor typographic differences from Cerasano's).
For What It's Worth
- St. Mark’s Day is 25 April.
- Race, offering a contrarian opinion, argues that the entries by Forman in his casebooks, including that for "Cox of Collumpton" are forgeries by John Payne Collier, abetted by Peter Cunningham: “My suggestion is that when Collier and Cunningham were engaged on the Shakespeare accounts they challenged one another to produce a nonsense story, and this was Collier’s effort” (14). He is particularly hard on "Cox" as a theatrical piece, asserting that “the plot is so fantastic that it is perfectly clear that the play could never have been put on the stage” (13), and that “as a narrative it reaches the depths of illiteracy” (14).
Site created and maintained by Roslyn L. Knutson, Professor Emerita, University of Arkansas at Little Rock; updated, 7 February 2012.