LOOKE ABOUT YOU
[along with Day, Haughton, Dekker,
Wadeson and/or Munday?]
(possibly the same play as the lost Dekker play,
BEAR A BRAIN?)
Looke About You was first published in Quarto in the year 1600 and is believed to have been written by Henry Chettle circa 1599, but is more than likely a collaborative play given that Chettle seems mainly to have worked in collaboration with other playwrights. He is associated with some fifty co-authored plays in Henslowe's accounts, while only one play, The Tragedy of Hoffman, appears to be by Chettle alone. In Annals of the English Stage, Alfred Harbage suggests that Looke About You may be the same play as Bear a Brain by Thomas Dekker mentioned in Henslowe's Diary. Due to the complex nature of its authorship this play is more often than not categorized as anonymous. Several possible rival authors or collaborators have been mentioned in various combinations including all or some of the above mentioned playwrights. Apart from Chettle and Dekker, Anthony Munday has been urged as candidate in the authorship debate but, in the historical scenes and particularly in the character of Prince John, a style emerges that is unlikely to be Munday's and was, perhaps, Chettle's. It is abrupt and extravagantly emphatic. Munday's tragic tone in his two Robin Hood plays, The Downfall of and The Death of Robert Earl of Huntingdon, is smooth and sentimental; this writer is forceful, rough and gloomy. Therefore it is tempting to discern in the clumsy and boorish quarrels of Henry's sons and in the fierce rant of Prince John the early work of Henry Chettle. For more information see e.g. The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907-21). Volume V. The Drama to 1642, Part One: XIII. Lesser Elizabethan Dramatists. § 6. Henry Chettle's early life: his Tragedies: The Tragedy of Hoffman.
Editor's Note: The playwright(s) conceptually conflate two prisons in this play. The Tower and the Fleet are used interchangeably though they were on opposite sides of London. Interestingly, only royal characters mention the Tower. The two prisons are apparently conflated, however, as is made clear from young Henry's line:
I will not yeeld he shall vnto the Tower,
Gloster subsequently escapes from the Fleet and not the Tower.
Warden of th'Fleet take you the charge of Gloster.
a synoptic, alphabetical character list
Block is the servant of old Faukenbridge and a friend of Robert Earl of Huntingdon, also known as Robin Hood. Together with Robin and Faukenbridge, Block is an ally of Prince Richard, which places him in the camp supporting the old King. He assists in the various missions to save Gloster from execution.
Some uncertainty pertains as to whether "3. BRO" in the text refers to the three brothers of young King Henry, i.e. John, Richard and Jeffrey (even though Jeffrey does not appear anywhere else in the play).
The Earl of Chester opposestogether with the Earl of Lancasterthe bill to release the Queen from prison. Both Chester and Lancaster are of the old King's party.
The constable and a watch twice intercept Skinke in his disguise as Redcap. First time round they take him directly to the Tower, the second time they present him first at the house of Faukenbridge and then escort him to the Tower.
The drawer works at The Salutation Inn where he serves sack to the fugitive Gloster dressed as Faukenbridge. Gloster, who needs a new disguise, uses the sack to administer a drug to the pursuivant-messenger Winterborne in order to obtain his clothes along with the warrant and message box, which incidentally contains the old King's pardon for the porter of the Fleet. When later the real Faukenbridge arrives at the inn accompanied by Prince John and Richard, the drawer accuses the confused Faukenbridge of drugging and robbing Winterborne.
FALCONBRIDGE or "FAUKENBRIDGE"
Old Sir Faukenbridge is married to young Lady Marrian Faukenbridge of whom Prince Richard is enamored. Though not the most steadfast supporter, Faukenbridge is of the old King's party, which directly links him with Robert of Huntingdon (Robin Hood) and Prince Richard. The prince's thinly veiled courtship of his wife is a constant worry to Faukenbridge, who thinks Lady Marrian is cuckolding him. He is however himself put to shame when later in the play he meets his wife in disguise as a pretty merchant's wife, fails to recognize her and subsequently arranges a secret date with her at his house. Faukenbridge is framed by the cunning Marrian, who has Robin Hood act as her proper self, while she arrives, still in disguise. Faukenbridge offers to take the "merchant's wife" to bed, she however calls for help from Lady Faukenbridge (i.e. the disguised Robin Hood). While Faukenbridge, ill at ease, is trying to explain himself, Marrian and Robin give up their disguises and all is forgiven.
GLOUCESTER or "GLOSTER"
'Fantastical' Robert or Robin, Earl of Gloster is the natural son of King Henry I. This makes him a brother of the old King Henry II, and explains why he calls the princes 'brothers' and 'cousins.' He is also the brother of Lady Marrian Faukenbridge, and thus brother-in-law of old Faukenbridge. Gloster supports the old King's party and openly speaks his mind when young Henry and the froward Prince John humiliate the old monarch in Parliament. Henry and John manage to commit Gloster to prison in the Fleet, but the quick-witted Gloster soon flees by disguising himself in the clothes of Redcap (worn by Skinke). Redcap, the keeper's son, has prior to this been cozened of his clothes by Skinke whilst on a mission for Gloster to obtain help from his sister. The general hunt for Gloster now starts. He is wanted
On reaching his sister's house Gloster is furnished with Faukenbridge's clothes. Dressed thus, he meets Richard and John. He informs them that "he" has already caught Gloster, appoints a meeting place for the exchange, and then escapes. Later he adopts the disguise of the pursuivant-messenger Winterborne, and finally, much to Skinke's dislike, doubles in the disguise of the holy Hermit of Black Heath. On the heath Gloster eventually meets with Richard. They do not recognize each other and end up fighting, but identities are revealed by the intervention of Robin Hood, and Richard promises to guard Gloster from harm. Thinking Gloster safe, Richard sets off to tell Lady Marrian the good news, but on the heath Gloster is finally intercepted by the lords Lancaster and Leycester, of the old and young King's parties respectively, who, accompanied by Redcap, escort him to Court.
- by John and Henry for treachery,
- by Richard to obtain the love of Marrian, and
- by Redcap to exchange for his father who is imprisoned for letting Gloster escape in the first place.
Still a crowned monarch, old King Henry is humiliated and reduced to a mock figure at the Parliament of two Kings. His eldest son Henry has seized power, and instigates the release of the Queen from prison against old Henry's wishes. The old King's other son John is similarly greedy for power and demands the rule over five counties. Only Prince Richard vows penitence for his prior sins against his father. (The fourth son, Prince Jeffrey, although mentioned, does speak in the play). Prior to the opening of the play, the old King had a mistress called Rosamund, who died under suspicious circumstances. It surfaces that Skinke was her murderer acting on the vengeful Queen Elinor's command. The Queen, while temporarily imprisoned for her instigation of Rosamund's murder, is freed on behalf of her sons. Together they form a gloomy alliance against the weak and helpless old king.
HERMIT OF BLACK HEATH
A "ghost character." A holy man, apparently killed by Skinke, whom first Skinke and then Faukenbridge impersonates.
A servant to Lady Faukenbridge.
Princess Isabell, wife of Prince John, speaks no lines in the play. Isabell is present at the final scene at Court.
Prince John is on a quest for power, but stands in the shade of his brother Henry. On a visit to the Fleet to see his cousin Moorton, John pays a visit to Gloster's cell to advise him of his immanent death. Thinking himself on top of the situation he even suggests a game of bowls with the Earl. What John does not know is that his bowling partner is really the rogue Skinke in Gloster's clothes. In fact, Gloster has managed to flee prison disguised in Skinke's clothes, who had arrived at the prison disguised as Redcap. In a moment when the prince is absent, Skinke helps himself to John's robes and flees, leaving the prince to a brief spell in the Tower. John begins his hunt for Gloster, but is led astray on several occasions by Skinke who operates in a number of disguises. When John finally meets Gloster, the target of his hunt, he manages not to recognize him. Gloster has at this point taken over the disguise of a holy Hermit doubling Skinke.
KEEPER or PORTER
The Keeper or Porter works in the Fleet prison (sometimes referred to in the play as The Tower). He is the father of Redcap, the stammering errand boy who is initially sent on the mission to Lady Faukenbridge to seek Prince Richard's help. The keeper is to be hung for letting Gloster escape, which sends Redcap on a frantic search for Gloster in order to save his father. Meanwhile Gloster and Lady Faukenbridge manage to obtain a pardon for the porter signed by the old King; and he is kept safe and conveyed to Court for the final scene.
LADY FALCONBRIDGE or "FAUKENBRIDGE"
Lady Marrian Faukenbridge is the wife of old Sir Faukenbridge, sister of Gloster, and love interest of prince Richard. Worried about her brother she dresses up as a merchant's wife to seek advice from the sage Hermit on Black Heath but receives little help (the Hermit actually being the deceiver Skinke, who is busy figuring out a way to avoid revealing himself). Meanwhile, at the Hermit's hut she meets her husband Faukenbridge and Prince John on the search for Gloster; they too are tricked by Skinke. Faukenbridge, who has no good reason to be suspicious of his wife's involvement with Richard, lusts after 'the merchant's wife' and suggests an amorous rendezvous with her at his home. Lady Faukenbridge agrees, and together with Robin Hood, whom she has already employed to impersonate her when Prince Richard comes a-wooing, manages to expose old Faukenbridge in his lechery and false suspicions.
The Earl of Lancaster is present at the Parliament. He is an adamant supporter of the old King and opposes together with Chester the release of the Queen from prison. Lancaster is likewise present on the heath when Gloster and Skinke are finally caught. Avoiding an open fight with the Duke of Leicester, who is of the young King's party, Gloster agrees to being arrested by Lancaster, whose loyalty to the old King has been unfailing.
LEICESTER or "LEYCESTER"
The Earl of Leicester supports the Queen's release at Parliament and slanders the old King for his affair with Rosamund.
A disguise adopted by Lady Marrian Faukenbridge. Worried about her brother she dresses up as a merchant's wife to seek advice from the sage Hermit on Black Heath. Her husband, Faukenbridge, who has no good reason to be suspicious of his wife's involvement with Richard, lusts after 'the merchant's wife' and suggests an amorous rendezvous with her at his home. Lady Faukenbridge agrees, and together with Robin Hood, whom she has already employed to impersonate her when Prince Richard comes a-wooing, manages to expose old Faukenbridge in his lechery and false suspicions.
Moorton is the cousin of the princes. He speaks no lines in the play, but appears as a prisoner in the Tower when Prince John goes to visit. On the request of his brother, young King Henry has conferred all Moorton's land onto Prince John.
Prince Richard brings a musician to play for Lady Marrian (who is really Robin Hood in disguise).
A reference to Henry, Richard, Jeffery, and John's father. (See "HENRY II.")
Lady Rawford's page is a young man who pays a visit to Lady Faukenbridge, who at that moment is really Robin Hood in disguise.
PERSUIVANT or "PERSUANT"
The pursuivant, whose name is Winterborne, is a messenger whom Gloster (disguised as Faukenbridge) meets at the Salutation Inn. (See "WINTERBORNE.")
Queen Elinor is the French wife of the old King, and mother of the four princes Henry, Richard, Jeffrey, and John. Portrayed as violent and vengeful, she is estranged from her husband. She is imprisoned for the first part of the play, but once free encourages young Henry and Prince John in their humiliation of the old King, her husband, and backs the killing of Gloster as a traitor.
Son of the Keeper of the Fleet in the Tower. Stammers fervently and is made to run lengthy errands for several of the characters in the play. Redcap inadvertently plays a large role in the confusion of disguised messengers. On his first mission for Gloster to obtain the help of Prince Richard via Gloster's sister Marrian Faukenbridge he is intercepted by Skinke who gives him wrong directions and then manages to swap his cloak for Redcap's cape. Hereafter the gullible Redcap is led on a succession of missions running back and forth between Kent, Gravesend, Stepney and Black Heath, mainly motivated by tracking down the escaped Gloster to ensure that his father is not hanged for Gloster's escape from prison. He finally catches up with Gloster on the heath when Lancaster and Leicester apprehend Skinke and Faukenbridge both in Hermit's clothes.
Standing apart from the alliance between the Queen, Young Henry and John, Prince Richard deals mildly and justly with his father, the old King. He is also the benefactor of young Robert Huntingdon/Robin Hood. He is won over to Gloster's party by his love for Gloster's sister, Lady Marrian, wife to old Faukenbridge. Richard is tricked by his own ward Robin, who disguised as Marrian obtains Richards's promise to free her brother Gloster in exchange for her love. When at the end of the play young Henry repents and reinstates the old King to power, Richard is compelled to go on a crusade to the holy land as a penitence for his sins against his father.
ROBERT EARL OF HUNTINGDON or ROBIN HOOD
Robert, or Robin is the young Earl of Huntingdon. He is also referred to as Robin Hood. He is the ward and chamberlain of Prince Richard and appears in conjunction with him and Block on several occasions. On the plea of Lady Faukenbridge Robert dresses up as a woman, impersonating Lady Faukenbridge when Prince Richard comes to woo her. In this disguise he obtains Richard's help in saving Gloster from Henry and John. Robin Hood is the more frequent name for Robert of Huntingdon. He also is referred to as 'England's Pride' by old Faukenbridge.
A "ghost character." Rosy-cheeked Rosamund, whom Leicester names daughter of Clifford, is already dead at the onset of the play. She was the old King's mistress, but was murdered by Skinke on the bidding of Queen Elinor and the young King. This is the direct reason for the Queen's imprisonment.
The Sheriff accompanies John and Richard in their search for Gloster.
Skinke is the prime mover of disguise and confusion in the play. He is a robber and a cony-catcher, and he has arguably poisoned Rosamund, the old King's mistress, upon Queen Elinor and prince Henry's command. He is omnipresent in several disguises and is perhaps the main source of the title's cautionary: 'look about you'. Skinke's first and last disguise is that of an old wise Hermit (whom, in his own words, he has helped along the way to death). It is unknown whether Robin Hood has seen through Skinke's disguise when at the outset of the play he comes to ask him to attend Parliament under the protection of the young King's party. The young King intends to make Skinke Lord of some of Gloster's landshowever Parliament turns out to be a disagreeable experience for the rogue who has many enemies at Court. He consequently decides to make himself scarce. He soon chances upon the innocent Redcap, who is on a mission from Gloster to Marrian with letters to Prince Richard. Redcap cannot remember the name of the Lady he is going to see, so Skinke refreshes Redcap's memory and then sends him on a wild goose chase by the river in the wrong direction. To shield Redcap from the cold, Skinke swaps his warm cloak and hat for Redcap's clothesand so obtains a new disguise. Skinke is however soon intercepted by a constable and a watch who bring him straight 'home' to the Fleet. Once in the Tower Skinke, disguised as Redcap, is in turn tricked of his clothes by Gloster, and Skinke must stay in prison till he escapes disguised in clothes that the visiting Prince John has left unguarded. Hereafter Skinke meets Faukenbridge, whom he (now dressed as Prince John) relieves of a gold chain. Back in the Hermit's guise he is consulted by Prince John and Faukenbridge on their search for Gloster, but feeling the earth getting hot under his feet slips away again. He is shortly after intercepted together with Gloster by Lancaster and Leicester. Skinke convenes with all other characters at the final scene where Henry condemns Gloster to death and bestows a coronet on Skinke to humiliate his father. Upon young King Henry's sudden repentance, Skinke decides to leave for the wars in Portugal.
The pursuivant, whose name is Winterborne, is a messenger whom Gloster (disguised as Faukenbridge) meets at the Salutation Inn. Gloster who finds it is time to change his disguise drugs Winterborne and steals his clothes, his warrant, and his box.
YOUNG KING or HENRY
At the parliament of two Kings, the young King appears crowned next to his father whom he has practically deposed. Overriding his father's wishes, he instigates the release of the Queen (who is imprisoned for her part in the murder of the King's mistress, Rosamund). He also commits Gloster to prison, and later seeks his death along with John. Henry is under the control of the spiteful Queen Elinor until the very end of the play. At the final Court gathering he offers to make Skinke a lord, and goes as far as offering to kill the captured Gloster with his own bare hands before he suddenly turns and repents. While the Queen and John watch in disbelief, Henry frees Gloster and reinstates the old King to full power. His deed inspires Richards's crusade, Skinke's departure to fight in Portugal and the new alliance between the Queen and John.