Sunday, September 2, 2012

Belimoth and a Heavy Funeral

In my post That Old Devil Belimoth I discussed the A and B Texts of Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus, noting that an important difference between the two texts is that the B-text contains lines involving a devil called Belimoth that do not appear in the A-text. Significantly, Guy of Warwick also contains a devil called Belimoth, and is the only other extant play of the period to do so. Further, there are very strong parallels between the lines in which Belimoth appears in Guy and the B-text, making it almost certain that the unique appearance of this devil in these two plays is not coincidental.

This link between Guy and the B-text is potentially of great significance for the dating of Guy. Current scholarship favours the theory that the extra lines in the B-text of Doctor Faustus are the 1602 additions to the play by William Birde and Samuel Rowley recorded in Henslowe's diary. If this is correct, and Guy borrowed the Belimoth lines from this Birde/Rowley version of Faustus, then clearly Guy could not have been written any earlier than 1602.  It is even possible that Guy borrowed the lines directly from the 1616 Quarto of Doctor Faustus, in which case it must have been written in or after 1616, a dating intriguingly consistent with the fact that a play on Guy of Warwick, ascribed to Day and Dekker, was entered in the Stationers’ Register in 1620.

Despite the possibility that the Belimoth link may point to Guy having been written in the 17th century, I suggested in my original post that, given the weight of scholarly opinion placing Guy in the 1590s, there might be an alternative explanation i.e. that both Guy and the B-text "were referencing a common source: a version of Doctor Faustus earlier than that of the A-text, but preserved in the B-text". Under this scenario, Guy could still have been written in the 1590s, and, additionally, the authority of the B-text would be strengthened. In this post, I will discuss another link between Guy and the B-text which supports this interpretation.

In both the A and B texts of Faustus, Faustus's death is followed by the play's Epilogue (“Cut is the branch that might have grown full straight…”). In the B-text, however, there is an intervening ‘scholar scene’, missing from the A-text,  where students discover Faustus's body and pledge to give him a “heavy funeral”:

Well Gentlemen, tho Faustus end be such
As euery Christian heart laments to thinke on:
Yet for he was a Scholler, once admired
For wondrous knowledge in our Germane schooles,
We'll giue his mangled limbs due buryall:
And all the Students clothed in mourning blacke,
Shall waite vpon his heauy funerall.

In Guy of Warwick there is also an intervening scene between Guy’s death and the Epilogue, when Guy’s body is discovered and he, too, is promised a “heavy funeral”:

Athelst. Rainborne 'tis true, sweet Phillis weep no more,
... on his Cave where he hath left his life,
a stately Hermitage I will erect,
in honour of Sir Guy of VVarwicks Name,
passe mournfully along, wee'l follow all
his bloodlesse Corps, and heavy funeral.

What makes the similarity of these scenes especially interesting is the use of the phrase ‘heavy funeral’. It’s actually quite rare. The phrase appears in a few other works of the time (e.g. Homers Iliads, George Chapman, 1616 and The seuen Champions of Christendome, Part 1, Richard Johnson, 1596), but, as is the case for the Belimoth lines, Guy of Warwick and the B-text of Faustus are the only plays of the period in which ‘heavy funeral’ appears. And it appears, of course, in the same conspicuous place in both plays - the last line before the Epilogue.

Given the already strong Belimoth link between Guy and the B-text, it is reasonable to see this ‘heavy funeral’ connection as another, non-coincidental, link between the two plays, and, importantly, one which tends to support the conclusion that both Guy and the B-text are referencing a version of Faustus from the 1590s. The main evidence for this comes from a paper by Robert A. H. Smith, the key part of which I will quote in its entirety.

“P. H. Kocher pointed out some years ago some similarities between lines in Faustus and lines in Thomas Lodge’s play, The Wounds of Civil War. There seem to be several passages in the latter work which are reminiscent of parts of Faustus, and in one instance not noted by Kocher two lines occurring near the end of The Wounds of Civil War (V. v. 400-1) resemble very closely Faustus, V. iii. 2111-12.

And Fulvia clad in black and mournful pale,
Will wait upon her father’s funeral.
(Wounds of Civil War)

And all the students clothed in mourning black
Shall wait upon his heavy funeral.

Lodge’s play probably dates from the 1580s and thus was already an old work when it was published in quarto in 1594. It is impossible to state positively who was the borrower here, but there now appears to be further evidence for assigning this scholar scene in Faustus  to the early 1590s, if not earlier, and to Marlowe or his original collaborator.

Three other possibilities can be rejected. The owners of both plays, The Admiral’s Men, were revising and reviving many of their old works at the turn of the century, and Rowley or Birde may have borrowed the lines at this time. 1602, shortly after the Essex Rebellion, would have been a very suitable date to revive and revise a work with a theme and title such as Lodge’s play. Secondly, Lodge’s work could have been reprinted after 1594. Finally, the revisers could have unconsciously recalled Lodge’s old lines, or even copied out and adapted them. There is in fact no evidence from Henslowe’s diary or elsewhere that any revision or republishing took place; a simple revival would have been unlikely for such an old-fashioned and undistinguished work; the Lord Chamberlain’s Men objected strongly in 1601 when they were asked to revive a much more recent and superior work, Richard II,  because it was ‘so old and so long out of use’. The play had most likely been forgotten about long before 1602.”

In other words, it doesn’t really matter who borrowed from whom here. The likelihood either way is that the ‘heavy funeral’ lines ending the scholar scene in the B-text date from the early 1590s or earlier (if Lodge was the borrower, then it becomes a certainty). If so, it is reasonable to assume that the Belimoth lines in the B-text also date from the early 1590s or earlier, particularly as the probable source for the name Belimoth, Reginald Scot’s The Discoverie of Witchcraft, was published in 1584.

This conclusion, if correct, is not just important for our understanding of the B-text, but also for our understanding of Guy. While we cannot rule out the possibility that Guy referenced the Belimoth and ‘heavy funeral’ lines long after the time they first appeared in Doctor Faustus, the more likely  scenario is that it referenced them around that time i.e. in the early 1590s. The seeming inconsistency between this and my proposed dating of Guy to 1598 is something I will discuss in a later post.