MENU
Gesta Grayorum
1688

C444 copy 1, title page

View Image Assets
C444 copy 1, title page
Click image to enlarge

Institution Rights and Document Citation

Terms of use
Images that are under Folger copyright are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. This allows you to use our images without additional permission provided that you cite the Folger Shakespeare Library as the source and you license anything you create using the images under the same or equivalent license. For more information, including permissions beyond the scope of this license, see Permissions. The Folger waives permission fees for non-commercial publication by registered non-profits, including university presses, regardless of the license they use. For images copyrighted by an entity other than the Folger, please contact the copyright holder for permission information.

Copy-specific information
Title: Gesta Grayorum: or, The history of the high and mighty prince, Henry Prince of Purpoole, Arch-Duke of Stapulia and Bernardia, Duke of High and Nether Holborn, Marquis of St. Giles and Tottenham, Count Palatine of Bloomsbury and Clerkenwell, Great Lord of the Cantons of Islington, Kentish-Town, Paddington and Knights-bridge, Knight of the most heroical Order of the Helmet, and sovereign of the same; who reigned and died, A.D. 1594. Together with a masque, as it was presented (by His Highness’s command) for the entertainment of Q. Elizabeth; who, with the nobles of both courts, was present thereat.
Date: London : printed for W. Canning, at his shop in the Temple-Cloysters, MDCLXXXVIII. [1688]
Repository: Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, DC, USA
Call number and opening: C444 copy 1, title page & pp. 20-23
View online bibliographic record

Item Title
Gesta Grayorum: or, The history of the high and mighty prince, Henry Prince of Purpoole, Arch-Duke of Stapulia and Bernardia, Duke of High and Nether Holborn, Marquis of St. Giles and Tottenham, Count Palatine of Bloomsbury and Clerkenwell, [...]
Item Date
London : printed for W. Canning, at his shop in the Temple-Cloysters, MDCLXXXVIII. [1688]London : printed for W. Canning, at his shop in the Temple-Cloysters, MDCLXXXVIII. [1688]
Repository
Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, DC, USA
Call Number
C444 copy 1, title page

C444 copy 1, page 20 and 21

View Image Assets
C444 copy 1, page 20 and 21
Click image to enlarge

Institution Rights and Document Citation

Terms of use
Images that are under Folger copyright are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. This allows you to use our images without additional permission provided that you cite the Folger Shakespeare Library as the source and you license anything you create using the images under the same or equivalent license. For more information, including permissions beyond the scope of this license, see Permissions. The Folger waives permission fees for non-commercial publication by registered non-profits, including university presses, regardless of the license they use. For images copyrighted by an entity other than the Folger, please contact the copyright holder for permission information.

Copy-specific information
Title: Gesta Grayorum: or, The history of the high and mighty prince, Henry Prince of Purpoole, Arch-Duke of Stapulia and Bernardia, Duke of High and Nether Holborn, Marquis of St. Giles and Tottenham, Count Palatine of Bloomsbury and Clerkenwell, Great Lord of the Cantons of Islington, Kentish-Town, Paddington and Knights-bridge, Knight of the most heroical Order of the Helmet, and sovereign of the same; who reigned and died, A.D. 1594. Together with a masque, as it was presented (by His Highness’s command) for the entertainment of Q. Elizabeth; who, with the nobles of both courts, was present thereat.
Date: London : printed for W. Canning, at his shop in the Temple-Cloysters, MDCLXXXVIII. [1688]
Repository: Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, DC, USA
Call number and opening: C444 copy 1, title page & pp. 20-23
View online bibliographic record

Item Title
Gesta Grayorum, or, The history of the high and mighty prince, Henry Prince of Purpoole, Arch-Duke of Stapulia and Bernardia, Duke of High and Nether Holborn, Marquis of St. Giles and Tottenham, Count Palatine of Bloomsbury and Clerkenwell, [...]
Item Date
London : Printed for W. Canning, at his shop in the Temple-Cloysters, MDCLXXXVIII [1688]
Repository
Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, DC, USA
Call Number
C444 copy 1, p. 20-21

C444 copy 1, page 22 and 23

View Image Assets
C444 copy 1, page 22 and 23
Click image to enlarge

Institution Rights and Document Citation

Terms of use
Images that are under Folger copyright are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. This allows you to use our images without additional permission provided that you cite the Folger Shakespeare Library as the source and you license anything you create using the images under the same or equivalent license. For more information, including permissions beyond the scope of this license, see Permissions. The Folger waives permission fees for non-commercial publication by registered non-profits, including university presses, regardless of the license they use. For images copyrighted by an entity other than the Folger, please contact the copyright holder for permission information.

Copy-specific information
Title: Gesta Grayorum: or, The history of the high and mighty prince, Henry Prince of Purpoole, Arch-Duke of Stapulia and Bernardia, Duke of High and Nether Holborn, Marquis of St. Giles and Tottenham, Count Palatine of Bloomsbury and Clerkenwell, Great Lord of the Cantons of Islington, Kentish-Town, Paddington and Knights-bridge, Knight of the most heroical Order of the Helmet, and sovereign of the same; who reigned and died, A.D. 1594. Together with a masque, as it was presented (by His Highness’s command) for the entertainment of Q. Elizabeth; who, with the nobles of both courts, was present thereat.
Date: London : printed for W. Canning, at his shop in the Temple-Cloysters, MDCLXXXVIII. [1688]
Repository: Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, DC, USA
Call number and opening: C444 copy 1, title page & pp. 20-23
View online bibliographic record

Item Title
Gesta Grayorum, or, The history of the high and mighty prince, Henry Prince of Purpoole, Arch-Duke of Stapulia and Bernardia, Duke of High and Nether Holborn, Marquis of St. Giles and Tottenham, Count Palatine of Bloomsbury and Clerkenwell, [...]
Item Date
London : Printed for W. Canning, at his shop in the Temple-Cloysters, MDCLXXXVIII [1688]
Repository
Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, DC, USA
Call Number
C444 copy 1, p. 22-23

Institution Rights and Document Citation

Terms of use
Images that are under Folger copyright are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. This allows you to use our images without additional permission provided that you cite the Folger Shakespeare Library as the source and you license anything you create using the images under the same or equivalent license. For more information, including permissions beyond the scope of this license, see Permissions. The Folger waives permission fees for non-commercial publication by registered non-profits, including university presses, regardless of the license they use. For images copyrighted by an entity other than the Folger, please contact the copyright holder for permission information.

Copy-specific information
Title: Gesta Grayorum: or, The history of the high and mighty prince, Henry Prince of Purpoole, Arch-Duke of Stapulia and Bernardia, Duke of High and Nether Holborn, Marquis of St. Giles and Tottenham, Count Palatine of Bloomsbury and Clerkenwell, Great Lord of the Cantons of Islington, Kentish-Town, Paddington and Knights-bridge, Knight of the most heroical Order of the Helmet, and sovereign of the same; who reigned and died, A.D. 1594. Together with a masque, as it was presented (by His Highness’s command) for the entertainment of Q. Elizabeth; who, with the nobles of both courts, was present thereat.
Date: London : printed for W. Canning, at his shop in the Temple-Cloysters, MDCLXXXVIII. [1688]
Repository: Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, DC, USA
Call number and opening: C444 copy 1, title page & pp. 20-23
View online bibliographic record

Gesta Grayorum is the published account of entertainments performed at Gray’s Inn over the 1594–5 Christmas season, including a performance of The Comedy of Errors on December 28. Gray’s Inn is one of four London legal societies situated between the River Fleet (now Farringdon Road) and the royal palace of Westminster. (The other three “Inns of Court” are Inner Temple, Middle Temple, and Lincoln’s Inn.)

Though some Christmas entertainment was performed each year at every Inn, on rare occasions the younger gentlemen of Gray’s Inn elected a Christmas Lord whom they styled “the Prince of Purpoole” after the Inn’s historical site, the manor of Portpool. These extended revels and entertainments, some extempore, some scripted, ran from November 1 to February 2 and beyond.

The text of the Gesta Grayorum, probably written in 1595 but not published until 1688, reports (p. 22) that “A Comedy of Errors (like to Plautus his Menechmus) was played by the Players” in Gray’s Inn Hall on December 28, 1594, amid an evening of general confusion that led to the occasion being called the “Night of Errors.” Although the cause of the confusion is not entirely clear, the following day a mock trial was held, recording several comments about the performance. The professional performers, probably the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, including Shakespeare, are denigrated as having been “foisted” on the members of Gray’s Inn, and are characterized as “a Company of base and common Fellows, to make up our Disorders with a Play of Errors and Confusions” (p. 23). This belittling of the players sounds like mere snobbery from the young “gentlemen” of Gray’s Inn, or an attempt to shift blame from employers to employees after the night’s entertainment ended up overcrowding the hall.

The Audited Account of the Exchequer for 1594-5 records a performance of an unnamed play at Greenwich by the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, Shakespeare’s company, also on Innocents Day, December 28, 1594, and a performance in the same venue on the very same day by the Lord Admiral’s Men, Edward Alleyn’s Company. A possible explanation is that the Lord Chamberlain’s players performed a version of Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors at Greenwich in the afternoon, and then again at Gray’s Inn in the evening, while the Lord Admiral’s players performed a different play at Greenwich the same evening. Another possible explanation is that at least one of the entries in the Exchequer account contains a dating error.

The Gesta Grayorum titles of “A Comedy of Errors” or “Play of Errors and Confusions” may be compared to other titles given to Shakespeare’s play over the years. In his 1598 Palladis Tamia list of Shakespeare plays (p. 282), Francis Meres calls it “his Errors,” while the Revels Book of 1604-5 calls it “The plaie of Errors.” Not until the Shakespeare First Folio of 1623 was it called “The Comedy of Errours” (in the table of contents) or “The Comedie of Errors” (in the textual title and running head, under Comedies, pp. 85-100). The further characterization of the play in Gesta Grayorum as being “like to Plautus his Menechmus” must remove virtually all doubt that it was an early version of the Shakespeare play published in 1623, as scholars generally recognize this classical play as one of its sources.

Coincidentally, a decade after the reportedly botched performance at Gray’s Inn, the Revels Book of 1604-5 reports that “The plaie of Errors” was performed on Innocent’s Day, December 28, the exact same festival day as in 1594-5.

 

Written by Alan H. Nelson

Sources
D.S. Bland, ed. Gesta Grayorum or the History of the High and Mighty Prince Henry Prince of Purpoole anno domini 1594. (Liverpool University Press, 1968).

Margaret Knapp and Michal Kobialka. “Shakespeare and the Prince of Purpoole: The 1594 Production of The Comedy of Errors at Gray’s Inn Hall.” Theatre History Studies 4 (1984): 70–81.

Alan H. Nelson, ed., The Inns of Court, Records of Early English Drama, 3 vols. (London: D.S. Brewer, 2010).

Lois Potter, The Life of William Shakespeare: a Critical Biography (Chichester, West Sussex: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012) 151-155.

Last updated January 12, 2017