<i>Arden of Faversham</i>:The Moral of History and the Thrill of Performance

Ros King

in The Oxford Handbook of Tudor Drama

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

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Literature

 Arden of Faversham:The Moral of History and the Thrill of Performance

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  • Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)


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On 14 February 1551 a murder took place in Faversham, in the county of Kent. Thomas Arden, former mayor of the town, was killed by his wife Alice, her lover Thomas Morsby, or Mosby, and their accomplices. This article focuses on the popular play spawned by this incident, the anonymous Arden of Faversham (first published by Edward White in 1592), which also created a new genre of true-life domestic tragedy. The play follows the well-known events of the story very closely, but it combines Cicely Ponder and Arden's household maid Elizabeth into one character, Susan, which has the effect of linking the murderers even more strongly together in both rivalry and obligation. The play's publication, staging and dramaturgy, authorship, and plot construction are discussed.

Keywords: Thomas Arden; murder; plays; true-life domestic tragedy; Tudor theatre

Article.  8854 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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