God Speed the Plough

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Anon. (1593)


Contents

Historical Records

Performance Records (Henslowe’s Diary)

F. 8v (Greg I.16)

Jn the name of god Amen begninge the 27 of
desem[r] 1593 the earle of susex his men
Res at good spede the plowghe . . . . . . . . .
iijll js
Res at god spead the plowe the 5 of Jenewary 1593 . . . .
xjs





Theatrical Provenance

Beginning on 27 December 1593, Sussex’s players leased the Rose and performed 12 plays through 6 February 1594. God Speed the Plough" was their first offering of the new run (27 Dec); it is not marked “ne.” It received two performances and returned an average of 36s. to Henslowe. It does not appear in subsequent theater documents.

Probable Genre(s)

Comedy? (Harbage)

Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues

GodSpeedPlough.jpg
(Roxburghe ballads)

There is a ballad entitled “God speed the Plow, and bless the corn-mow, A Dialogue between the husband-man and the Serving-man” (Roxburghe ballads). It is basically estate morality, with each man praising the pleasures of his profession. Predictably, the serving man likes the up-scale, busy, urban life, while the ploughman likes the joys of agricultural life and husbandry. It is an exchange not unlike the meeting of Touchstone and Corin in As You Like It (Internet Shakespeare Editions).

References to the Play

None known.


Critical Commentary

Greg notes the registration of the book, “God Speed the Plough,” on 1 March 1601, adding that the phrase was proverbial (II.157, Item 27).

Knutson, in an argument that challenges the perception of Sussex's players "as the poster child for ... turmoil' in the playhouse world in 1593, points out that seven plays of the company's twelve old plays (i.e., those without "ne") returned "more than 30 shillings on average to Henslowe" (462, 464). One of those seven plays was "God Speed the Plough."

See also Wiggins serial number 910.


For What It’s Worth

The proverbial phrase is not obsolete; David Mamet wrote a play in 1988 called Speed-the-Plow.

Works Cited

Ebsworth, J. Woodfall (ed). The Roxburghe Ballads. vol. 6, part 3. Hertford: Printed for the Ballad Society by Stephen Austin and sons, 1888. pp. 521-25. Internet Archive
Knutson, Roslyn L. "What's So Special About 1594." Shakespeare Quarterly 61.4 (2010): 449-467.


Site created and maintained by Roslyn L. Knutson, Professor Emerita, University of Arkansas at Little Rock; updated, 9 February 2012.

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