Feature of the Month: Cupid’s Revenge

Cupid’s Revenge

Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher

London: A. Mathewes, 1635 [S.L.] I [Beaumont & Fletcher – 1635]

2015 marks the 500th anniversary of publication of the Jacobean play Cupid’s Revenge. The first quarto attributes authorship solely to John Fletcher (1579-1625; attribution amended in the next two quartos); however, according to Gordon McMullan in his article about Fletcher in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, the main author was Francis Beaumont (1554/5-1616). At any rate, the play is an early collaboration between the two playwrights, one of nine plays that they wrote together. The plot is based on Sir Philip Sidney’s Arcadia, and plays with the classical representation of Cupid and with the genre of revenge drama. In it, Leucippus and Hisdaspes, the children of Leontius, Duke of Lycia, persuade their father to suppress worship of the god Cupid, and Cupid responds by overseeing the family’s ruin and death. Leucippus has been the lover of Bacha. Bacha marries Leontius, thereby becoming Leucippus’s stepmother. He therefore refuses (against Bacha’s will) to continue in what would be an incestuous relationship. She ends up by stabbing Leucippus to death and killing herself. Meanwhile, Hisdaspes dies of love for a misshapen dwarf. As Leucippus lies dying, he reverses Leontius’s edict against Cupid.

The play was acted at court by Her Majesty’s Revels Children in 1611/12, and again by the Queen of Bohemia’s men in 1613 before appearing in print in quartos of 1615, 1630 and 1635, and in Beaumont and Fletcher’s second folio of 1679; it was omitted from their first folio (1647), as that is of previously unpublished plays. The third quarto, shown here, is printed from the second one, with some changes to words and to faulty punctuation. This copy was purchased for the Sterling Library for £7.15.0 in 1957. It is one of seven seventeenth-century imprints bought that year from a fund given by Sir Louis Sterling, to augment the literary holdings of the collection he had donated; later, as antiquarian book prices increased, the library would veer towards eighteenth- and then nineteenth-century imprints when purchasing. ESTC currently records 20 extant copies, nine in the United Kingdom and eleven in America.

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