Crack Me This Nut

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Anon. (1595)


Contents

Historical Records


Performance Records (Henslowe's Diary)

F.12v / Greg 1.24:
ye 5 of septmb[er] 1595 ne . . R[d] at cracke me this nvtte . . . . . . . . . . iijll js
ye 12 of septmb[er] 1595 . . . . . . . . R[d] at cracke me this nutte . . . . . . . . . . iijll
. . . . . . .
F.13 / Greg 1.25:
ye 24 of septmb[er] 1595 R[d] at cracke me this nvtte . . . . . . . . . . xxxxijs
ye 2[7]8 of septmb[er] 1595 ________ ________ R[d] at crack me this nvtte . . . . . . . . . . iijllvjs
ye 8 of octob[er] 1595 R[d] at cracke me this nvtt . . . . . . . . . . xxvjs
ye 20 of octob[er] 1595 R[d] at cracke me this nvtte . . . . . . . . . . xxjs
ye 24 of octob[er] 1595 R[d] at cracke me this nvtte . . . . . . . . . . xxiijs
ye 5 of novmb[et] 1595 R[d] at cracke me this nvtt . . . . . . . . . . xxiiijs
. . . . . . .
F.14 / Greg 1.27:
ye 18 of novmb[er] 1595 ________ ________ R[d] at cracke me this nvtte . . . . . . . . . . . xxiiijs
ye 6 of desemb[er] 1595 [_______ ________] R[d] at Crack me this nvtt . . . . . . . . . . xvs
ye 2 of Jenewary 1595 R[d] at cracke me this nvtt . . . . . . . . . . ixs
ye 14 of Jenewary 1595 R[d] at cracke me this nvtte . . . . . . . . . . xxiijs
. . . . . . .
F.14v / Greg 1.28:
ye 7 of febreary 1595 R[d] at crack me this nvtt . . . . . . . . . . xixs
. . . . . . .
F.15v / Greg 1.30:
ye 7 of maye 1596 R[d] at cracke me this nvtte . . . . . . . . . . xviijs
. . . . . . .
F.21v / Greg 1.42:
ye 7 of June 1596 ___mr pd___ ________ R[d] at cracke me this nvtte . . . . . . . . . . xxviijs
ye 23 of June 1596 R[d] at cracke me this nvtt . . . . . . . . . . xijs


Payments for Properties (Henslowe's Diary)


NB. the following references to "the playe of the nvtte" and the book of "the nvtte" are provided here because of the apparent connection to the title of Crack Me This Nut, but it should be noted that the identification is not absolutely certain.

Fol.95 / Greg 1.151:

Lay owt for the company to bye buckerom . . . . . .}
for a sewt for the playe of the nvtte to the. . . . . .}vs
littell tayller the 4 of desemb[er] 1601 the some of }


Payments, Miscellaneous (Henslowe's Diary)

F.96 / Greg 1.155:

pd at the apoyntment of the copmanye the. . . . . . .}
18 of Janewary 1601 vnto E Alleyn for iij boockes. . . }
wch were played called the french docter the. . . . . } vjll
massaker of france & the nvtte the some of . . . . .. }



Theatrical Provenance

First recorded performance by the Admiral's men 5 September 1595, and thereafter for a total of 16 performances. It was marked as "ne" in a period when the Admiral's "began to introduce new plays very quickly: 'Longshanks' on August 29, 'Crack Me This Nut' a week later, and 'The New World's Tragedy' two weeks after that" (Knutson 122). At some stage, Edward Alleyn seems to have acquired the book of "the nvtte" (presumably Crack Me This Nut). He sold it to the Admiral's men along with The French Doctor and The Massacre at Paris in 1601/2. The company's acquisition of the book from Alleyn suggests an intention to revive the play, though no subsequent performance dates are known.


Probable Genre(s)

Comedy (?) (Harbage); tragedy? (see For What It's Worth below)


Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues

It is frustrating that virtually nothing can be ascertained with any certainty about the subject of this considerably successful play. For a new speculation on subject matter, see For What It's Worth below.


References to the Play

As Greg observes, "[t]he phrase was proverbial" (2.176). It was the subtitle of an anti-Martinist tract (Pap with a Hatchet, alias A Fig for my Godson, or Crack Me This Nut, 1589), and Greg suggests that "[i]t is no doubt the tract and not the play that is alluded to in Old Fortunatus" (2.176). Greg may well be correct that Dekker was referring to the tract rather than the lost play, but it is not possible to establish this conclusively.


Critical Commentary

Hazlitt suggests without evidence that "It is probably identical with the " Play of the Nut," mentioned by Henslowe under December, 1601" (53).

In The Shakespeare Company Gurr notes only 14 performances of this play, not the 16 listed above in the extracts from Henslowe's Diary: "New plays Chinon, Longshanks, and Crack Me This Nut, all had 14 stagings" (99). In Shakespeare's Opposites (217-18, 262 n124) Gurr adjusts this total upwards to the correct 16, and incorporates the sale of the book of "the nvtte" in 1602 into the historical records of Crack Me This Nut without any acknowledgement that they may be discrete titles.

W.J. Lawrence's 1935 book, Those Nut-Cracking Elizabethans, takes its title not from the lost play, but from "the custom of hawking apples, pears and nuts in the house while the audience was slowly assembling" and the playgoers' "habit of persistent nut- cracking which proved a nuisance" (1). He marshals evidence from plays to show that "nut-crackers" were typically lower class playgoers more interested in spectacle than dialogue.

See also Wiggins serial number 1008.


For What It's Worth

A hitherto unconsidered possibility is that Crack Me This Nut may not have been a comedy at all. An entry in the Stationers' Register for 20 January 1595/96 reads:

Master Ponsonby. Entred for his copie vnder the hands of the Wardens A booke
Intitled The Paragon of pleasaunt histories . . . vjd
Or this Nutt was neuer Cracked Contayninge a Discourse of a
nobl[e] kinge and his Three sonnes /


(S.R.1, 3.57 / Fol.7)

The subtitle's reference to a noble king and his three sons may even suggest a King Lear-style tragedy, though the "pleasant" part of "pleasaunt histories" tends to curtail this possibility. Unfortunately, like the play, this text appears to be lost.


Works Cited

Gurr, Andrew. The Shakespeare Company, 1594-1642. Cambridge: CUP, 2004.
---. Shakespeare's Opposites: The Admiral’s Company 1594-1625. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009.
Hazlitt, W. Carew. A Manual for the collector and amateur of old English plays. 1892. London: Burt Franklin, 1966 reprint.
Knutson, Roslyn L. “What was James Burbage Thinking???” Thunder at a Playhouse: Essays on Shakespeare and the Early Modern Stage, eds. Peter Kanelos and Matt Kozusko. Selinsgrove, PA: Susquehanna University Press, 2010. 116-30.
Lawrence, W.J. Those Nut-cracking Elizabethans: Studies of the Early Theatre and Drama. London: The Argonaut Press, 1935.




Site created and maintained by David McInnis, University of Melbourne; updated 12 March 2011.

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