Thomas Merry (Beech's Tragedy)

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John Day, William Haughton (1599)


Historical Records

Henslowe's Diary

F. 65v (Greg I.114)

Lent vnto wm Harton the 21 novmb[er]
in earneste of her boocke called merie
the some of … xs

Lent vnto wm harton & John daye the 27 of
novmb[er] in earneste of a tragedie called
mereie the some of … xxs
                as may a pere

F. 29 (Greg I.57)

Receiued of mr. Henseslowe in earnest of the tragedie
of merie the some of xxs. The 27th of noueb.
___________________ xxs.
           W Haughton.      J D.

Recd of Mr Hinchloe more in ernest of The
Tragedy of Thomas Merrye 20s
          Joh. Day.
          W Haughton
Recd more of mr Hinchloe vpon the same booke 10s
          By John Day.

F. 66 (Greg I.115)

Lent vnto wm hawton & John day the
5 of desemb[er] 1599 in earneste of ther boocke
called mereye at the apoyntment of
Robart shawe the some of … xxs
as may a pere

Lent vnto John daye the 6 desemb[er]
1599 in earneste [called] of a Boocke called
merye [the] as maye a pere … xs

pd vnto wm hawghton & John daye the
6 of desemb[er] 1599 in full payment of ther
boocke called the tragedie of merie the some of … xxxxs

F. 67 (Greg I.117)

[10-18 January 1600]

pd vnto the mr of the Revelles man for
lycen[c]singe of a Boocke called Beches
tragedie the some of … viijs

Stationers' Register

Arber 2.311b/658

29. Augusti. [1594]  :Thomas Gosson. Thomas Millington. Thomas Da[w]son./

Entred for theire Copie vnder th[e h]andes of both the wardens, A booke entytuled, A true discourse of a most cruell and barbarous murther comitted by one THOMAS MERREY, on the persons of ROBERTE BEECHE and THOMAS WINCHESTER his servaunt. on ffridaie night the 23th . of August. beinge Bartholomue Eve. 1594. Together with the order of his array[g]nement and execucon. ... vjd

29. Augusti. [1594] :Thomas Millington. Thomas Gosson. and Thomas Da[w]son.

Entred for theire Copie vnder th[e h]andes of the wardeins a ballad entituled. B[E]ECHE his ghoste. Complayninge on ye wofull murder committed on him and THOMAS WINCHESTER his servaunt. ... vjd

Arber 2.312/659

.3d. Septembris./.[1594] :John Danter./l

Entred for his Copie vnder th[e h]andes of Master WILBRAHAM and Master Binge a ballad entituled a lamentable ballad describing the wofull murder of ROBERT BEECHE &c Master Dawood havinge likewise sett to his hande for further warraunt ... vjd

7d. Septembris./. [1594] :Thomas Gosson/ Thomas Myllington/

Entred for their copie vnder the wardens handes, a ballad intituled/ the pitifull lamentacon of RACHELL MERRYE whoo suffred in Smithfeild with her brother THOMAS MERRYE the vjth of September 1594/ ...vjd

7d. Septembris./. [1594] :Thomas Gosson

Entred for his Copie vnder th[e h]and of bothe the wardens a ballad entituled the lamentable ende of THOMAS MERRYE and RACHELL HIS SISTER ... vjd

9d die Septembris [1594] :Thomas Millington./.

Entred for his Copie vnder th[e h]ande of Master Cawood a ballad intituled the said lamentacon of THOMAS MERRYE &c ... vjd

Theatrical Provenance

The Admiral's Men performed The Tragedy of Thomas Merry (or, Beech's Tragedy) at the Rose starting in the late winter of 1599-1600. It was one of several "true crime" plays acquired in response to the arrival of the Chamberlain's Men across the street at the Globe and anticipation of the move northward to the Fortune playhouse.

Probable Genre(s)

Tragedy (Harbage)

Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues

If The Tragedy of Thomas Merry was a discrete text from the play folded into the tragedy of "a young childe murthered in a Wood by two Ruffins, with the consent of his Vncle" (The Orphans Tragedy) in the 1601 publication under the name of Robert Yarington called Two Lamentable Tragedies [1], the play called "the murder of Maister Beech a Chaundler in Thames street, and his boye, done by Thomas Merry" is a dramatic analogue.

References to the Play

None known.

Critical Commentary

Two issues drive the commentary on The Tragedy of Thomas Merry:

One is the identity of Rob. Yarington, whose name appears in the authorial position on the title page of Two Lamentable Tragedies (1601) [2]. Fleay believed that "Yarington was a fictitious name" (2.286). Greg called Yarington a scribe (II.209, Item 190). Law argued that he is the author of the composite plays as printed (JSTOR [3]). Wagner discovered an entry for the freedom in 1603 of "Robt. Yarrington junr." in An Annuall Catalogue ... of the Company of Scrivenors of the Citty of London (Bodleian MS., Rawl. D. 51), that appears to settle the identity of the "Rob. Yarington" on the title page of the 1601: he was a scribe, as Greg had guessed, and still an apprentice when he copied the manuscript that would be printed as Two Lamentable Tragedies (JSTOR [4]).
The other is the relationship of the first of the two plays in Two Lamentable Tragedies to the play for which the Admiral’s Men paid Haughton and Day £5 in 1599. Fleay, having decided that Yarington was fictitious, explained Two Lamentable Tragedies as a publication put together by Chettle "consolidating the two plays" of Thomas Merry and The Orphans' Tragedy (2.286). Greg argued that the combined printing of two plays means "much matter must have been omitted" (II.209, Item 190). He could find no trace of Day's hand in the printed scenes and characterizes the "Merry" parts as "written in an extraordinary wooden bombast of grotesque commonplace" (II.209, Item 190). On the whole, his opinion seems to be that the Haughton-Day play was significantly different from that published under Yarington's name.

Clark summarizes the arguments by scholars on Yarington's 1601 quarto and the entries in Henslowe's Diary (35-6).

Gurr, by entering the Thomas Merry play in Appendix I under the title Two Lamentable Tragedies, appears to be supporting the argument that Haughton and Day's play is not lost but printed in the composite text copied by Yarington (248). He refers to Two Lamentable Tragedies as a "London horror story" (71). He offers alternative titles for the 1601 printing: The Double Tragedy (114) and Two Tragedies in One (144), the latter the running title in the Yarington publication.

Knutson considers Haughton and Day's play to be lost, yet telling "much the same story as one of the narratives woven into Robert Yarington's Two Lamentable Tragedies" (27). She points out a feature of the "Merry" scenes in the quarto, namely that both Merry and his sister are hanged onstage; as a rule, women were taken offstage to be executed, as in A Warning for Fair Women (27).

See The Orphans Tragedy for which Henry Chettle was paid 10s. on 27 November 1599 and 10s. on 24 September 1601 for further details on the play described as the story of “a young childe murthered in a Wood by two Ruffins, with the consent of his Vnckle” on the title page of Two Lamentable Tragedies (1601). See also The Italian Tragedy, for which John Day was paid 40s. on 10 January 1600, for commentary on how Fleay and Greg mix it in with the identity of The Orphans' Tragedy.

For What It's Worth

(Information needed)

Works Cited

Clark, Andrew. “An Annotated List of Lost Domestic Plays, 1578—1624,” Research Opportunities in Renaissance Drama 18 (1975): 29-44.
Fleay, F. G. A Biographical Chronicle of the English Drama, 1559—1642. 2 vols. 1891; rpt New York: Burt Franklin, 1962. [5]
Gurr, Andrew. Shakespeare’s Opposites: The Admiral’s Company 1594-1625. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009.
Knutson, Roslyn L. “Toe to Toe Across Maid Lane: : Repertorial Competition at the Rose and Globe, 1599-1600,” in June Schlueter and Paul Nelsen (eds) Acts of Criticism: Performance Matters in Shakespeare and His Contemporaries (Madison & Teaneck: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2005), 21-37.

Law, R. A. “Yarington’s ‘Two Lamentable Tragedies’, Modern Language Review 5 (1910): 167-77. JSTOR [6]

Wagner, Bernard M. "Robert Yarrington," Modern Language Notes 45.3 (1930): 147-8. JSTOR [7]

Yarington, Robert. Two Lamentable Tragedies. 1601 [8]

Site created and maintained by Roslyn L. Knutson, Professor Emerita, University of Arkansas at Little Rock; updated 21 January 2010.

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