OTHER PLAYS ON THE SAME SUBJECT
1. Account records show that in 1584 the normal cycle of Coventry Corpus Christi plays was wholly or at least in part replaced by a considerably more spectacular (and more costly) play, The Destruction of Jerusalem. NOTE 1 This specially commissioned work — the fee for its composition was the handsome sum of £13 s.6 d.8 — was written by John Smith or Smyth of Warwickshire [1563 - 1616], who passed from the Free School of Coventry to St. John’s College, Oxford, in 1577, served as Lecturer at St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, and wound up as vicar of Clavering in Essex. Both because of the similarity of the title of that work to that of Solymitana Clades as Englished by Fuller and apparently also by Meres, and because 1584 seems a plausible date for such a plagiarism to have occurred, the suspicion has been voiced that Smith may have filched his play from Legge. NOTE 2 Before the contents of Solymitana Clades had become known, Ingram (p. 587) had already expressed his doubt about the veracity of this claim: NOTE 3 “…so bold and public a theft one hopes unlikely, if only for Smith’s and Coventry’s reputations.” If Ingram had not labored under the misapprehension that Legge was a Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University, he could also have wondered how an Oxford man could have purloined the work of a Cambridge man.
2. In any event, this possibility can now be excluded altogether. Here is an extract from the Coventry smith’s guild accounts for the year 1584, pertinent to the payment of various expenditures for the production of The Destruction of Jerusalem:
…item, paid to Reignolde Headley for playenge of Symon and Phynea v s.; item, paid to Gabryell Foster for playenge of Justus, Ananus, Eliazar and the Chorus vj s. viij d.; item, paid to William Longe for Playenge of Merstyars, Jacobus, Hippenus and the Chorus, v s.; item, paid to Jhon Hoppers for playenge of Jesus and Zacharyas iij s.; item, paid to Henry Chamberleyne for playenge of Pristus, a pece of Ananus and Zilla, iij s. iiij d.; item, paid to Jhon Grene for playenge of Mathias and Esron, ij s.; item, paid to John Copestake for playenge of Esron his parte, xx d.; item, paid to Lewes Pryce for playenge of Niger his parte, xvj d.; item, paid to Francys Cocckes for playenge of Solome, xij d.; item, paid to Richard Fitzharbert and Edward Platte for playenge Chyldren to Solome, xij d.…
This list of actors and the parts they played is instructive: NOTE 4 the fact that Smith’s play contained parts not found in Solymitana Clades and vice versa flatly excludes any possibility of plagiarism.
3. During the Restoration John Crowne scored a notable success with a two-part play The Destruction of Jerusalem by Titus Vespasian, acted at the Theater Royal in 1677 and printed in the same year. NOTE 5 In Part I the story of the ill-starred love of Phraates, a fictitious Parthian king, for Clarona, daughter of the High Priest Matthias, is set against a background of the siege of Jerusalem. In a similar way, Part II dramatizes the romance of Titus and Queen Berenice, following in the wake of Racine. Even the most cursory reading of this work establishes what one would anyway expect, that Solymitana Clades exerted no influence over it whatsoever.
4. The same can, no doubt, be said about another Josephus-based play with a different title, William Hemings' The Jewes Tragedy, or Their fatal and Final Overthrow by vespatian and Titus his Son, printed in 1662 but dated to the late 1630's by modern scholarship. NOTE 6 This play, written by the son of a partner in Lord Strange’s Men and later the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, at first sight resembles Solymitana Clades in that it contains a proclamation issued by Schimeon, a “come ye all” inviting all manner of rascals and rogues to join his cause, which closely resembles the proclamation at S. C. 4681ff. (III.ii, p. 42) But in the Introduction it has been pointed out that Legge's speech is based on a passage in Peter Morwen's 1558 Compendious and most marueilouse Historie of the latter times of the Iewes common weale, and the simplest explanation of this resemblance is to assume that Legge and Hemings independently took their inspiration from the same source. Another work to be considered is Nashe's 1593 Christ's tears over Jerusalem, which likewise contains a version of Schimeon's proclamation (p. 33) in the course of a lengthy summary of the siege of Jerusalem, in which he mentions, in hte same order, many of the same episodes treated by Legge. The possibility cannot be entirely excluded that Nashe was familiar with Solymitana Clades: he did not leave Cambridge until 1588, and we have seen that the latest work cited by Legge in a sidenote was Ciaconus' 1588 De Triclinio Romano, so it is just possible that our play was circulating in ms. while he was still up at the university; then too, it is worth remembering that he afterwards recalled how an actor fluffed a line in Richardus Tertius (see the note on lines 579ff. of that play), so he was demonstrably familiar with Legge as a playwright. Nevertheless, it is unnecessary to think that he had any familiarity with Solymitana Clades, since he too could easily have read Schimeon's proclamation in Morwen, and it is far likelier that he based his historical summary on Morwen's published work than on Legge's incomplete and unpublished one. Morwen is also the probably source of the lost play Titus & vespaccia profitably acted ten times at the Rose Theater by Lord Strange's Men in 1592, recorded in the diary of Philip Henslowe, owner of the Rose and the play Titus, and Vespasian mentioned in a list of plays prepared by the Office of the Revels in 1619.
NOTE 1 For the evidence for this play, cf. R. W. Ingram, Records of Early English Drama: Coventry (Toronto, 1981) 303ff. and 587. Cf. also p. 332 for a possible revival performance in 1591.
NOTE 2 Sir Edmund K. Chambers, A History of the Elizabethan Stage (Oxford, 1923) III.408f., W. W. Greg, A Bibliography of the English Printed Drama to the Restoration (London, 1951) II.997.
NOTE 3 Quoted by Ingram p. 308.
NOTE 4 Not least because for its evidence for roles split between two actors. This list may not reflect the complete dramatis personae, since it only lists actors who received compensation.
NOTE 5 This work may be read in The Dramatic Works of John Crowne (in the Dramatists of the Restoration series, Edinburgh, 1874, repr. New York, 1979) vol. II.
NOTE 6 Modern edition by Carl A. Morley, The Plays and Poems of William Heminge (Madison N. J., 2006). I owe the information in this paragraph to Prof. Lawrence Manley of Yale University.