Henry VIII (r.1509-1547)

Yes, we’re still lumping plays together under the reigning English monarch, don’t get snooty with us. And we do do other lists. All dates are approximate and often contested, here used primarily to note inception. Feel free to imagine them in slightly different orders and write long angry emails. Many of these plays were also printed, so they have a hinterland outlasting their original performance/s life.

We hadn’t planned to cover this period quite so extensively, but it’s probable that by the end of 2020 you will be able to listen to (at least) a read through of every play we have from the reign of Henry VIII. You’ll be able to take a day off and take a little trip through the whole corpus in one go.

This little list is mostly court sponsored drama, entertainment that was commissioned for court entertainment or by wealthy individuals or institutions – sometimes for fun, debate, soft political peacocking, or explicitly as propaganda.


Youth, anonymous. Virtual exploring session available on YouTube.

There’s also this version! Liverpool University Players did a production which can be watched via YouTube. Performed at Rufford Old Hall in Lancashire in 2014. Directed by Sarah Peverley and Martin Poile.


Hickscorner, anonymous. Virtual exploring session available. Something of a remix of Youth (above) – and though it’s first appearance must be somewhere here in the timeline, it lives on in the future and the name Hick Scorner gets referenced pretty often in later literature and drama.


The Four Elements, John Rastell. Written by and printed by Rastell, this is an incomplete text, with a chunk missing towards the end, and the close of the play. Exploring session available on YouTube.

And if you’d like to know more about John Rastell, printer and writer of plays, here’s an interview with John Thor Ewing (editor of Rastell’s 100 Merry Tales) all about him…

Magnificence, Skelton. Exploring session available on YouTube.


Christ’s Burial – a late example of liturgical drama, which packs one hell of a punch. Exploring session available on YouTube

Christ’s Resurrection – the next play of these two Easter dramas, playing a very different emotional range and with a grand explosion of music. Exploring session available on YouTube.

John the Evangelist, author unknown. This is the earliest this play can go in the timeline, it won’t get printed till the 1550’s – so you can move this around to taste. Our exploring session raised a whole host of questions and issues with this one. It’s a strange beast, either cut to shreds or trying to do something a bit too clever for its own good. One to delve into at greater depth in the future.

Chester Mystery Cycle – this is a super random nominal date for the area of surviving versions of this particular cycle, which continues to be revised and copied for decades to come. We include it here, partly because the texts we have come from aroundabout now, but also to remind you that the country is awash with Biblical drama, from individual parishes staging the occasional one off, to the better known big collected cycles. There’s another fifty years of this sort of thing, though it does get more fraught/fiddly/complicated after the reformation – coming soon! Go to the Chester Page for more… a lot more!


Callisto and Melebea, by someone, based on La Celestina and with a huge amount of overlap with Dame Sirith and other multi-versioned pieces of storytelling/drama. Printed and possibly commissioned by John Rastell. Exploring session available – and also on the playlist a character workshop on the bawd Celestina!

Godly Queen Hester – possibly an early version of the play belongs in the early to mid 1520’s, with the version that comes to us dating around 1529. Exploring session available.

Witty and Witless by John Heywood. This has been dated later than the 1520’s, but apart from the closing speech and some revision, we’re fairly sure it lives around here. Full cast audio adaptation available.

John John by John Heywood – this may have been written before Witty and Witless above, but they live close on each others heels. Full Cast Audio Adaptation plus rehearsal bonus material with uncut script and discussion.

Gentleness and Nobility by John Heywood

Pardoner and the Friar by John Heywood

Play of Love by John Heywood


The Prodigal Son or Pater, Filius et Uxor (fragment) – Exploring session released, more work to follow – also see Thersites (below) for some crossover of material.


The Four PP by John Heywood

Courage, Kindness, Cleaness (Fragment) – Full Cast Audio Adaptation

D, G, T (Fragment) – Full Cast Audio Adaptation

1533 – NB: The English Reformation starts cooking with gas about now…

Play of the Weather by John Heywood – Full Cast Audio Adaptation available, as well as a whole project with video archive available online.

The website Staging the Henrician Court, with videos from their staging of The Play of the Weather, can be found here. http://stagingthehenriciancourt.brookes.ac.uk/

Old Christmas or Good Order (Fragment) – Exploring session available, full cast audio adaptation in preparation.

1534 – Coventry Mystery Plays (Two Texts) – Exploring session in preparation. We’ve put the surviving Coventy mystery plays here because there is a record of a performance around about now. But remember, Biblical drama is still happening EVERYWHERE.


Temperance and Humility, anonymous. Exploring session available, full cast audio adaptation in preparation. A beginning to the related play Four Cardinal Virtues, below.

1537 – Albion Knight, by some person. Exploring session available, full cast audio adaptation in preparation.

Thersites by Author Unsure. Virtual Exploring Session on YouTube. Some echos of dialogue from The Prodigal Son, Four PP, and Jack Juggler.


Three Laws by John Bale – 1538 was a busy year for Bale, the three plays we have of his all originate around about here. Three Laws is a deeply problematic play, with is not just evangelical for the rising Protestant cause, but also brazen in its attack on Catholicism and sexual relations. An exploring session is available on YouTube.

God’s Promises by John Bale. We’ve done a lot, and also not nearly enough on this play. We originally recorded a rough plain text version, and released it in individual scenes, and also in an omnibus edition. But then we went back to do a more considered exploration session on YouTube.

To find out more about Bale’s Biblical plays, here’s a discussion about them.

John Baptist’s Preaching by John Bale. Exploring session available, full cast audio adaptation in preparation.

The Temptation by John Bale – Exploring session available, full cast audio adaptation in preparation.

King John by John Bale – this play probably began life here, but was being revised all the way to the reign of Elizabeth. Exploring sessions available on YouTube.


Love Feigned and Unfeigned by anonymous (fragment). Exploring session available, full cast audio possible for the future. It’s a not unlong fragment this, playing with ideas of love and friendship in interesting ways.

An Satire of the Three Estates by Sir David Lindsay – this is around about where an early version of this Scottish play was produced. See Edward and Mary for full entry.


The Four Cardinal Virtues, anonymous (fragment). Exploring session available, full cast audio adaptation in preparation. Related ending to Temperance and Humility, see above.


The Play of Wit and Science by John Redford. This is the first appearance of this play, variously dated from the early 1530’s to 1547. It’s got some brilliant comic business, and is popular enough to be revised/rewritten as the Marriage of… further down the line. So, keep an eye on the title, it’ll pop up again in variations. Exploring session available.

There’s a lot of room for doubt as to the precise placing of some of the above. Some could live much later. And there’s a lot more to be said about the drama during this reign of Henry VIII, but this is just a general list, so you’ll have to go out and buy a book or something. Lot’s of them about. They’re often found in bookshops. Go on, off you go.