Eastward Hoe

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Title page Eastward Hoe

Eastward Hoe or Eastward Ho, is an early Jacobean-era stage play, a satire and city comedy written by George Chapman, Ben Jonson, and John Marston, printed in 1605. The play was written in response to Westward Ho, an earlier satire by Thomas Dekker and John Webster. Eastward Ho offended King James I with its anti-Scottish comedy, which caused Jonson and Chapman to be arrested for a time, and which made their play one of the famous dramatic scandals of its era.


The play deals with a goldsmith and his household. He has two apprentices and two daughters. One apprentice, Golding, is industrious and temperate; the other, Quicksilver, is rash and ambitious. One daughter, Mildred, is mild and modest; the other, Gertrude, is vain. Mildred and Golding marry. Gertrude marries the fraudulent Sir Petronel Flash, a man who possesses a title but no money. Sir Petronel promises Gertrude a coach and six and a castle. Sir Petronel takes her dowry and sends her off in a coach for an imaginary castle while he and Quicksilver set off for Virginia after Quicksilver has robbed the goldsmith. During this time, the provident and careful Golding has become a deputy alderman. Quicksilver and Petronel are shipwrecked on the Isle of Dogs and are brought up on charges for their actions. They come before Golding. After time in prison, where they repent of their schemes and dishonesty, Golding has them released.


Eastward Ho was entered into the Stationers' Register on 4 September 1605 and printed later that year in a quarto issued by the bookseller William Aspley, printed by George Eld. The three authors are identified on the title page, as is the playing company that staged the work, the Children of the Queen's Revels. Aspley issued a second quarto in the same year, 1605.[1]

Scholars who have tried to determine the respective contributions of the three authors have not reached a full consensus of opinion.[2] Marston is normally assigned Act I; Chapman's hand is seen in Acts II and III; Jonson is usually associated with Act V. Individual scholars, from F. G. Fleay to T. M. Parrott to Percy Simpson, have produced their own specific and unmatching divisions of authorship. Scholars generally do agree, however, that scene III,iii, the scene with the Scots reference that caused the trouble, was written by Chapman; yet Chapman blamed Marston for the lines that caused offense: "if Chapman spoke the truth, Marston must have interpolated the obnoxious clauses".[3]

The printed text of 1605 does not represent the full and offensive stage production of that year, though critics have disagreed as to whether the hostile official reaction was provoked more by the stage version or by the text.[4] Eastward Ho borrows from and alludes to the dramas of the popular theatre in knowing ways, as plays of the fashionable boys' companies often did; scholars have traced references to The Spanish Tragedy, Tamburlaine, and especially Hamlet.[5] Eastward Ho has been called "one of the best made of Elizabethan comedies", with a "clear-cut strength and simplicity of structure" rare in dramas of its time.[6]

The play has also inspired the Industry and Idleness series by William Hogarth which also contrasts two apprentices and their lives


The play resulted in Jonson and Chapman being thrown in jail for a time, for offending the King with the anti-Scottish reference in Act III[7] Because of the scandal, a significant body of documentation exists regarding the play, including personal letters written by both Chapman and Jonson while they were in prison.[8] In 1619, William Drummond of Hawthornden recalled Ben Jonson explaining how he got into trouble "for writing something against the Scots in a play, Eastward Ho, and voluntary imprisoned himself with Chapman and Marston who had written it amongst them. The report was that they should have had their ears cut and noses".[9] In actuality Marston fled and escaped arrest. Jonson and Chapman were out of jail by November 1605; Chapman's commendatory poem in the first edition of Jonson's Sejanus (1605) appears to indicate that the Earl of Suffolk was influential in obtaining their release and resolving the matter.

The play was never entirely banned or suppressed. It was revived by the Lady Elizabeth's Men in 1613; and on 25 January 1614, that company performed Eastward Ho at Court.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Chambers, E. K. The Elizabethan Stage. 4 Volumes, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1923; Vol. 3, p. 254.
  2. ^ Logan, Terence P., and Denzell S. Smith, eds. The New Intellectuals: A Survey and Bibliography of Recent Studies in English Renaissance Drama. Lincoln, NE, University of Nebraska Press, 1977; pp. 91, 152–3, 223.
  3. ^ Chambers, Vol. 3, p. 256.
  4. ^ Logan and Smith, pp. 146, 218.
  5. ^ Logan and Smith, p. 146.
  6. ^ Herford and Simpson, quoted in Logan and Smith, p. 216.
  7. ^ Nicol, David (September 2002). "Eastward Ho! by Chapman, Jonson and Marston, performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company at the Swan Theatre, 2002". Early Modern Literary Studies. 8 (2). 
  8. ^ Chambers, Vol. 3, p. 255.
  9. ^ Herford, C. H., and Percy Simpson, eds. Ben Jonson: The Complete Works. 11 Volumes, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1925–54; Vol. 1, p. 143.

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