ABSTRACT

The Oldcastle dramatists based their version of the story of the late fourteenth century and early fifteenth century Lollard Lord Cobham on two popular sixteenth century historical sources: Raphael Holinshed’s Chronicles (1587) and John Foxe’s Acts and Monuments (1563--first English edition), which was commonly called The Book of Martyrs. 1 Edited selections from these two works can be found in Appendices II and III. 2 These sources contain references to most of the events in the Cobham affair, as well as to other events of Henry V’s reign used in 1 Sir John Oldcastle: the Ficket Field rebellion and the Cambridge conspiracy. Yet while the Oldcastle dramatists depend mainly on secondary historical sources, one can also discern in the play their significant dependence on a different kind of “historical” source--the history plays of Shakespeare. Certain incidents, characters, and turns of phrase are borrowed from Henry V and the two Henry IV plays. Thus study of the sources shows that Oldcastle is not just a straight dramatization of historical incidents but a slightly more complicated and self-conscious play, using (or perhaps abusing) Shakespearian touches for its own ends.