- When You See Me You Know Me
"When You See Me You Know Me" is an early Jacobean history play about Henry VIII, written by
Samuel Rowleyand first published in 1605.
The play was acted by Prince Henry's Men, the company to which Rowley belonged through most of his acting career, and premiered most likely in
1604at the Fortune Theatre. The play was entered into the Stationers' Registeron Feb. 12, 1605; the quarto that followed was published by the bookseller Nathaniel Butter.
Rowley's play has been cited as a "probable source" for Shakespeare's and Fletcher's "Henry VIII". [Bullough, Vol. 4, pp. 437-42 and 489-510.] Interestingly, the second quarto edition of "When You See Me" was issued in
1613, the year in which "Henry VIII" was performed. Subsequent quartos of "When You See Me" appeared in 1621and 1632.
Inevitably, Rowley had to take a selective approach to the vast subject of Henry VIII's biography; he chose to emphasize the King's conflict with
Cardinal Wolseyand the birth and early education of Edward VI. Rowley's approach is loose and broadly synthetic: the events depicted in the play actually spread over three decades (1514-44); Wolsey is still alive at the end of the play, though he should have been long dead. The young Edward is depicted as an incipient hero of Protestantism, defending his sister Elizabeth and Thomas Cranmerwhen they are accused of treason.
Rowley also shows the King going out in disguise to mingle with his subjects, as in the legends surrounding
Harun al-Rashidand similar figures. Henry is even shown getting into brawls and being arrested. Comic relief is provided by scenes of the King with his jester Will Summers.
Scholars have noted links between "When You See Me" and the "B text" or 1616 version of Marlowe's "Doctor Faustus". The Diary of
Philip Henslowerecords a payment to Rowley for additions to Marlowe's play in Nov. 1602. The common features between "When You See Me" and "Faustus" have been employed in an effort to trace Rowley's contribution to the B text. [Rasmussen and Bevington, pp. 72-3.]
* Bullough, Geoffrey. "Narrative and Dramatic Sources of Shakespeare." 8 Volumes, New York, Columbia University Press, 1962.
* Chambers, E. K. "The Elizabethan Stage." 4 Volumes, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1923.
* Rasmussen, Eric, and David M. Bevington, eds. "Doctor Faustus A- and B- Texts (1604, 1616): Christopher Marlowe and His Collaborators and Revisers." Manchester, Manchester University Press, 1992.
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