The Maid's Tragedy
The play was one of the earliest works in the canon of Fletcher and his collaborators that was acted by the King's Men; Fletcher would spend most of his career as that company's regular playwright. In the King's Men's performances of the play, the part of Melantius was reportedly acted by John Lowin.
The play's date of origin is not known with certainty. In 1611, Sir George Buck, the Master of the Revels, named The Second Maiden's Tragedy based on the resemblances he perceived between the two works. Scholars generally assign the Beaumont/Fletcher play to c. 1608–11.
Scholars and critics generally agree that the play is mostly the work of Beaumont; Cyrus Hoy, in his extensive survey of authorship problems in the Beaumont/Fletcher canon, assigns only four scenes to Fletcher (Act II, scene 2; Act IV, 1; and Act V, 1 and 2), though one of those is the climax of the play (IV, 1).
The play was entered into the Stationers' Register on 28 April 1619, and published later that year by the bookseller Francis Constable. Subsequent editions appeared in 1622, 1630, 1638, 1641, 1650, and 1661. The play was later included in the second Beaumont and Fletcher folio of 1679.
The texts of the first quarto of 1619, and the second of 1622, are usually synthesized to create modern editions, since Q2 contains eighty lines not included in Q1, plus a couple of hundred changes and corrections on Q1.
Critics have varied widely, even wildly, in their responses to the play. Many have recognized the play's power, but have complained about the play's extremity and artificiality. (People who dislike aspects of Beaumont and Fletcher's work will find those dislikes amply represented, even crystallized, in this play.) John Glassner once wrote that to display "the insipidity of the plot, its execrable motivation or the want of it, and the tastelessness of many of the lines one would have to reprint the play."
Andrew Gurr, one of the play's modern editors, notes that the play "has that anomaly amongst Elizabethan tragedies, an original plot." Other critics have noted that the play introduces romance into the standard revenge tragedy, and that the play, even in its artificiality, has relevance to the disputes about authority that characterized relations between kings and Parliament in the decades leading up to the English Civil War. Due to its setting on the island of Rhodes, the play has also been read in light of sixteenth-century Ottoman military expansion in the Mediterranean.
- Cyrus Hoy, "The Shares of Fletcher and His Collaborators in the Beaumont and Fletcher Canon," Studies in Bibliography, VIII-XV, 1956-62.
- E. K. Chambers, The Elizabethan Stage, 4 Volumes, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1923; Vol. 3, p. 224.
- Terence P. Logan and Denzell S. Smith, eds., The Later Jacobean and Caroline Dramatists: A Survey and Bibliography of Recent Studies in English Renaissance Drama, Lincoln, NE, University of Nebraska Press, 1978; p. 25.
- Logan and Smith, pp. 26-7.
- Lindsay Ann Reid, Beaumont and Fletcher's Rhodes: Early Modern Geopolitics and Mythological Topography in The Maid's Tragedy, Early Modern Literary Studies 16.2 (2012)