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The Seven Deadly Sins (play)

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The Seven Deadly Sins was a two-part play written c. 1585, attributed to Richard Tarlton, and most likely
premiered by his company, Queen Elizabeth's Men.[1] The play drew upon the medieval tradition of the
morality play; though it was very popular in its time, no copy of either part has survived.

1 The "plot"
2 The cast
3 Notes
4 References

The "plot"
The play is significant, however, because the "plot" of Part 2 still exists; it was discovered in the cover of a
17th-century manuscript play, The Tell Tale, in the collection of Edward Alleyn's papers at Dulwich College. As
the term was used in English Renaissance theatre, the "plot" of a play was a chart that summarized its action; it
was posted in the "tiring house" or backstage area of a theatre. The plot of S.D.S. 2 has a square hole punched
in its middle, where it was hung on a board for all to read. The cast members of an Elizabethan dramatic
production had their own parts written out for them, with relevant entrances and cues but they did not have
their own individual copies of the play text as a whole. So the posted plot was an important resource in keeping
the production organized. Surviving Elizabethan plots are extremely rare only half a dozen exist.[2]

The existing plot for S.D.S. 2 is not from the original production c. 1585, but from a later production c. 1590
91.[3] It was acted by personnel from Lord Strange's Men and the Admiral's Men, and took place at The
Theatre, the first of the large public theatres of the Elizabethan era. The plot shows that Part 2 consisted of
episodes concerning three of the seven deadly sins, Envy, Sloth, and Lechery; S.D.S. 1 must therefore have
dealt with Greed, Gluttony, Wrath, and Pride.

The cast
That cast included many of the men who would form the Lord Chamberlain's Men in 1594. The plot refers to
the production's personnel sometimes under the actors' names, sometimes by nicknames, and sometimes only
by their roles; but at least a partial reconstruction of the actors and their roles is possible:[4]
Actor Induction Envy Sloth Lechery

George Bryan Warwick Damascus

Richard Burbage Gorboduc Tereus

"Harry" (Henry Condell?) Ferrex a lord

Richard Cowley a lieutenant a soldier; a lord Giraldus; a musician a lord

Augustine Phillips Sardanapalus

Thomas Pope Arbactus

John Sinkler a keeper a soldier a captain; a musician Mercury (?)

William Sly Porrex a lord

"R. Go." Aspasia

"Kit" a soldier a captain

"R. Go.," the actor (most likely a boy player) who filled a female role, might have been Robert Gough, who
was with the Chamberlain's/King's troupe down to 1621. "Kit" might have been Christopher Beeston, who was
with the Chamberlain's in the 15981602 period.[5] The plot also mentions Robert Pallant, John Duke, and John
Holland, all future Lord Chamberlain's Men, and Thomas Goodale, an Admiral's Man.

It is also possible that other future members of the Lord Chamberlain's Men were in the production, but are
named in the plot as the characters they played. When the same amalgamation of actors from two companies
toured with Alleyn in 1593, Burbage was not present, but Phillips, Bryan, Cowley, and Pope were joined by
William Kempe and John Heminges, other members of the team that would enact Shakespeare's plays later in
the decade.

1. Chambers, Vol. 2, p. 125.
2. In addition to S.D.S. 2, Chambers (Vol. 4, p. 406) lists plots for George Peele's The Battle of Alcazar, and
the anonymous and lost plays Dead Man's Fortune, Frederick and Basilea, Fortune's Tennis Part 2, and
Troilus and Cressida Part 1 (not Shakespeare's play but another work, perhaps written by Henry Chettle
and Thomas Dekker in 1599). A plot for the anonymous and lost Tamar Cham Part 1 once existed and is
known from descriptions, but is now itself lost.
3. Chambers, Vol. 3, pp. 496-7.
4. Nunzeger, pp. 36, 63, 68, 98 and ff.
5. Chambers, Vol. 2, p. 302.

Chambers, E. K. The Elizabethan Stage. 4 Volumes, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1923.
Gurr, Andrew. The Shakespearean Stage 15741642. Third edition, Cambridge, Cambridge University
Press, 1992.
Halliday, F. E. A Shakespeare Companion 15641964. Baltimore, Penguin, 1964.
McMillin, Scott. "Greg, Fleay, and the Plot of 2 Seven Deadly Sins," Medieval and Renaissance Drama
in England, Vol. 4 (1989), pp. 53-62.
Nunzeger, Edwin. A Dictionary of Actors and of Others Associated with the Representation of Plays in
England Before 1642. New Haven, Yale University Press, 1929.

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