Male Friendship and Counsel in Richard Edwards’ Damon and pythias

Jennifer Richards

in The Oxford Handbook of Tudor Drama

Published in print July 2012 | ISBN: 9780199566471
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Literature

Male Friendship and Counsel in Richard Edwards’ Damon and pythias

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  • Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)



Richard Edwards' Damon and Pythias (1564–5) explores the nature of true male friendship, and commends its political utility. Edwards contrasts altruistic Damon and Pythias with several different pairs of friends, the false companions Aristippus and Carisophus, and their servants, Will and Jack, who have a functioning friendship of sorts. This article focuses on Stephano, servant to Damon and Pythias, who brings to the play's exploration of the friendship theme a recognition of the value of (social) difference and of unschooled wisdom: he repeatedly tests moral sayings against his own experience. Indeed, it is often Stephano who gives the wisest political counsel, advising Damon and Pythias to be wary of the world they find themselves in, though his low status means that this is invariably overlooked. A likely influence on the conduct of Edwards's argument, as much else in Damon and Pythias, is the humanist and political writer Elyot. Elyot does not just reflect on exemplary friendships like that of Damon and Pythias. He also taught readers how to ruminate ‘sentences’ in The Governour (1531) and explained to them the benefits of such ‘consultation’ in The Image of Governance (1541). It is this rhetorical process that Edwards also absorbs in his drama.

Keywords: Tudor theatre; plays; male friendship; political utility; Stephano; Elyot

Article.  8251 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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