Thomas Dekker
John Webster
(and others?)



(a version of I & II Lady Jane?)
(Between 15–21 October 1602, Henslowe paid Chettel, Dekker, T. Heywood, Went. Smith, and Webster for the first part of Lady Jane also known as The Overthrow of Rebels. One week later (between 27 October–circa 12 November) Henslowe paid Dekker, and possibly others, for the second part of Lady Jane. The second part may have never been completed. Both parts were written for Worcester's Men at the Rose, who in 1604 became Queen Anne's Men. Queen Anne's company performed Sir Thomas Wyatt a few years later. The precise date is uncertain. The possibility therefore exists that the two earlier plays were conflated into this one, much as T. Heywood cannibalized his two plays The Golden Age and The Silver Age to make his Escapes of Jupiter.)

a synoptic, alphabetical character list


Alexander Brett is a captain who first serves with the Dukes of Northumberland and Suffolk, but later takes service with the Duke of Norfolk. In the first phase of his employment, he is ordered to quarter his troops in Cambridge and learns at that place that the people are not sympathetic to Lady Jane Grey or her supporters. With the Duke of Norfolk at Rochester, Brett is ordered to take his five hundred Londoners and lead the attack upon Wyatt's forces, but during his speech encouraging his men to fight bravely, he finds himself admitting that Wyatt's attempt to prevent a marriage between Phillip of Spain and Queen Mary is his cause too and leads all his men over to Wyatt's side. When Wyatt attempts to attack London, however, Brett's troops realize that their fellow citizens remain firmly supportive of Queen Mary, and although Brett grudgingly remains with Wyatt, his London troops quietly steal away.


The younger son of the Duke of Northumberland and brother to Guildford Dudley, Ambrose brings his father the bad news that the royal commissioners have forsaken Lady Jane Grey and pledged their loyalty to Queen Mary. Further, he tells the duke that the Lord Mayor of London and many sheriffs have decided to proclaim Mary their queen and that Guildford and Jane have been sent to the Tower.


The Bishop of Winchester (the historical Stephen Gardiner) was a supporter of Queen Mary. As a member of the royal council, he is relatively quiet at first, but after Mary is proclaimed queen, he becomes an active force in political and ecclesiastical affairs. He petitions Mary to have the Roman clergy released from prison and returned to their posts, but she tells him she has already ordered the Duke of Norfolk to see to it. When Sir Thomas Wyatt urges the queen to be merciful to young Lady Jane Grey and Guildford Dudley, Winchester takes the queen's line and urges the maximum punishment. He clashes again with Wyatt over the proposed marriage of Mary to Phillip II of Spain, a match that he fully endorses as being in the country's best interest. Finally, he presides at the trial of Lady Jane and Guildford, and rejecting the appeals for mercy from the Duke of Norfolk and the Earl of Arundel, orders them beheaded.


A "ghost character". When Sir Thomas Wyatt pleads with Queen Mary to have mercy on Lady Jane Grey, he calls attention to their close blood ties, reminding her that the queen's own aunt Mary, Queen of France, (Henry VIII's youngest sister) married Charles Brandon, the first Duke of Suffolk. Their daughter Frances is Lady Jane's mother.


At the trial, the unnamed Clark (Clerk) of the Crown reads the indictment against Guildford Dudley and Lady Jane Grey.


The unnamed Clown appears at Cambridge, cracking jokes about Alexander Brett's having been ordered to quarter his troops in the town when they had not even been drawn yet. The Clown happens upon the cabin where the Duke of Suffolk has just been arrested and observes Holmes enter with a halter about his neck, watches as he buries the gold he has received for betraying the duke, and then witnesses Holmes' hanging himself. The Clown retrieves the gold, saying he will buy himself some new clothes and go to London, and he leaves dragging the corpse to be dumped in a ditch. Later, as Brett attempts to rally his men against Sir Thomas Wyatt, the Clown interposes insulting comments about the Spanish that help to make Brett aware that Wyatt's cause (preventing a Spaniard from marrying the English queen) is in fact his own.


Count Egmont is the Spanish ambassador to England. Queen Mary has him summoned to report that she and her advisers have agreed to accept the proposed marriage between her and Phillip II of Spain.


When the Country Maid and the Country Man meet Alexander Brett outside Cambridge and discover that Lady Jane Grey has been proclaimed the new queen, the Country Maid expresses her dismay at the choice.


When the Country Man and the Country Maid meet Alexander Brett outside Cambridge and discover that Lady Jane Grey has been proclaimed the new queen, the Country Man indicates that he does not like the news.


Only mentioned. As Guildford Dudley awaits execution, he observes that the Bishop of Winchester seems to take pleasure from his and Lady Jane Grey's deaths, just as the bishop had earlier relished the fall of Thomas Cromwell, one of Henry VIII's chancellors and later Earl of Essex.


The unnamed Doctor who has been attending King Edward VI tells the Dukes of Northumberland and Suffolk that there is nothing further medicine can do to save the young monarch.


The Duke of Norfolk (the historical Thomas Howard) was a supporter of Queen Mary. Late in the play, he leads a force against Sir Thomas Wyatt and places the five hundred Londoners under Alexander Brett in the vanguard. Along with the Earls of Pembroke and Arundel, Norfolk receives the surrender of the wounded Wyatt at London. He is present during the trial of Guildford Dudley and Lady Jane Grey. Along with Arundel, he is moved to ask that mercy be shown to the young couple, but it is refused by the Bishop of Winchester. After Guildford is taken off for execution, Norfolk has the concluding lines in the play and calls attention to the effects upon the young of their fathers' pride and ambition.


The Duke of Northumberland (the historical John Dudley) was the father of Guildford Dudley and a supporter of Lady Jane Grey. Having encouraged the dying Edward VI to name Lady Jane Grey to the succession, Northumberland has her proclaimed queen immediately after Edward's death, and initially the royal commission is inclined to support the king's will over the claims of Edward's sisters Mary and Elizabeth. The plan falls apart, however, when the commission reverses itself and sides with Mary, and the new queen orders the arrest of Northumberland and his sons. When he is taken by the Earl of Arundel, he recognizes that Mary will have his head and prays only that she will spare his family.


The Duke of Suffolk (historically Henry Grey) was Lady Jane Grey's father. When the royal commissioners decide to shift their support from Jane to Queen Mary, Suffolk goes into hiding, aided by his follower Holmes. After three days alone in a cabin, the duke is joined by Holmes who brings food and drink. A short while later, he is betrayed by Holmes and is arrested by the Sheriff and his officers. Brought to the Tower just before Lady Jane's arraignment on charges of treason, he speaks to her briefly about the regret he has for placing her in a situation where she will surely die.


The Earl of Arundel (historically Henry Fitzalan) was a supporter of Queen Mary. A member of the royal council, he is sent by Mary to arrest the Duke of Northumberland for treason, and he sides with the Bishop of Winchester in advising the queen to accept the marriage proposal from Phillip II of Spain. The Earl serves with the Duke of Norfolk in attempting to suppress the uprising led by Sir Thomas Wyatt and is among those nobles to whom the wounded Wyatt surrenders after the disaster at Ludgate. A member of the commission judging Lady Jane Grey and Guildford Dudley, he takes pity on the young people, and supported by Norfolk, he implores the Bishop of Winchester to be merciful, only to be ignored.


The Earl of Pembroke (the historical William Herbert) was a supporter of Queen Mary. When Wyatt attacks London, he confronts Pembroke who has been made Lieutenant of the City, and Pembroke refuses him entry at Ludgate. When Wyatt surrenders, it is Pembroke who orders the wounded man taken away by guards, and he later appears at the trial of Guildford Dudley and Lady Jane Grey.


A "ghost character". Gravely ill as the play opens, King Edward VI's death is announced by the Preacher. His will naming Lady Jane Grey as successor provides the catalyst for the action because the majority of both commons and nobles support the claim of Edward's sister Mary to the throne.


A "ghost character". As the Dukes of Suffolk and Northumberland discuss their plan to install Lady Jane Grey as queen of England, Northumberland promises he will see their plan through even though the dying king Edward VI leaves behind "Two Sisters, lawfull and immediate heires." The sisters are Henry VIII's two daughters, Mary and Elizabeth.


Mistress Ellen is lady-in-waiting to Lady Jane Grey. As Jane is prepared for execution, Mistress Ellen assists her in removing her outer clothing and offers her the blindfold traditional for those about to be beheaded.


Only mentioned. Objecting to the Bishop of Winchester's remark that England should be flattered to have someone as powerful as the Emperor of Spain (that is, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V) suggest a marriage between Phillip II of Spain and Mary of England, Sir Thomas Wyatt asserts that even the Emperor of Cham, ruler of the Mongols (who controls far more of the world than does any European prince), would feel obliged to humble himself before the virtuous and beautiful Mary.


A "ghost character". The Emperor of Spain (historically the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V) is mentioned by the Bishop of Winchester as being most gracious in suggesting a marriage between his son Phillip II of Spain and Queen Mary.


Guildford Dudley is the eldest son of the Duke of Northumberland and the beloved of Lady Jane Grey. Although his father would have him marry the lady to be in a position to rise with her if she is proclaimed queen, the early exchanges between the two young people indicate that neither is much interested in political status, preferring to concentrate upon their shared love. After the death of Edward VI, Guildford and Jane are sent to London, ominously to the Tower, there to await her coronation, but when the royal council reverses itself and supports Mary's claim, they find themselves arrested for treason. While in captivity, Guildford is informed by the Lieutenant of the Tower that his father has been beheaded, and he assumes it is only a matter of time before Jane and he suffer the same fate. As he and his beloved wait for execution, they exchange fervent promises to meet in the afterlife. When the Bishop of Winchester orders the execution to go forward, Guildford asks to be beheaded first (which historically he was), but the churchman refuses, saying that the queen has ordered Jane to be put to death first. Waiting for the Headsman, he calls upon the bystanders to witness Winchester's cruelty and then goes to his death eager to join Lady Jane in the afterlife.


After the death sentences for Guildford Dudley and Lady Jane Grey are handed down, the Headsman appears for the executions. He makes the customary gesture of begging forgiveness from those to be beheaded, and shortly after leading Lady Jane off, he returns with her head for the traditional exhibition so that there is no question about a possible substitution. He then leads Guildford Dudley off to be executed.


A "ghost character". On a variety of occasions, Wyatt and others indicate their support for Henry VIII's "issue" (Mary and Elizabeth) over the claims of Lady Jane Grey.


Wishing to gauge public support for Lady Jane Grey, the Duke of Northumberland orders the unnamed Herald to make a public proclamation that Jane as their new queen. The response from the people is silence. When the duke then orders the Herald to proclaim Mary the new queen, there is an approving shout from the crowd and a flourish of trumpets indicating widespread support for the daughter of Henry VIII, and Northumberland knows he cannot look for any popular backing for Jane.


Holmes is a trusted follower of the Duke of Suffolk (who refers to Holmes as Ned). He arranges to hide the duke in a cabin after the arrest of Northumberland, and in spite of swearing absolute loyalty to Suffolk, he leads the Sheriff and officers to arrest him. Guilt stricken after the arrest, Holmes procures a halter, buries the gold he has received for betraying his master (so it will do no further harm), and like Judas, hangs himself.


The daughter of the Duke of Suffolk and beloved of Guildford Dudley, Lady Jane Grey is named in the dying Edward VI's will to succeed to the throne. A pawn in an ambitious game being played by her father and the Duke of Northumberland, she nonetheless is willing to assume the throne if that is her duty. When the royal council that had briefly supported Edward's will reverses itself and proclaims Mary to be queen, Lady Jane finds herself under arrest in the Tower along with Guildford Dudley. Denied mercy by the Bishop of Winchester, she goes to her execution with dignity and expressions of joy that soon she and Guildford will find themselves united in eternity.


A "ghost character". As Norfolk arranges his troops to attack Sir Thomas Wyatt, he orders Alexander Brett and his five hundred Londoners in the vanguard while he, the Earl of Arundel, and "stout" Iarningham make up the second line. The reference is almost certainly to Sir Henry Jerningham, a firm supporter of Queen Mary, who was later made vice chamberlain and a member of the Privy Council.


Only mentioned. Just as the officers arrive to arrest the Duke of Suffolk, the Sheriff sees Holmes kiss the duke's hands, and he observes that Holmes has kissed his master just as Judas did while betraying the Christ.


A "ghost character". Northumberland calls for the King-at-Arms (the title used for any of the three chief heraldic officers of England) when he orders that Lady Jane Grey be publicly proclaimed Queen of England.


The Lieutenant of the Tower (the historical Sir John Bridges) informs Lady Jane Grey and Guildford Dudley of the Duke of Northumberland's execution on Tower Hill, and then he carries out Queen Mary's command that the two young people should be held apart until their arraignment on charges of treason. He appears later and is ordered by the Bishop of Winchester to summon Jane and Guildford for execution.


A mute character. The Duke of Northumberland asks his son Ambrose and the Lord Huntington (the historical Henry Hastings) to assist him in sounding the public response to Lady Jane Grey's claims to the throne. Huntington is not listed among the dramatis personae.


A "ghost character". The Earl of Arundel charges the Porter to bring the Lord Mayor of London with selected aldermen and leading citizens before the royal council. As the plan to install Lady Jane Grey as queen falls apart, Ambrose Dudley reports to his father (the Duke of Northumberland) that the Lord Mayor has decided to proclaim Queen Mary as rightful monarch.


The Lord Treasurer (the historical William Paulet, Earl of Wiltshire and Marquess of Winchester) was a supporter of Queen Mary. Uneasy at the royal commission's early support for Lady Jane Grey, he attempts to flee, only to be brought back to face the council. At first he claims only to have been pursuing some private family business, but he eventually admits his dislike for the council's willingness to disinherit the princesses Mary and Elizabeth in favor of Edward VI's wish to see Lady Jane take the throne. Because he has the courage to speak the truth as he sees it, the council reinstates him.


The daughter and eldest child of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, Mary finds herself in isolation as the play begins, but when the royal council reverses its decision to support Lady Jane Grey, she quickly moves to assert herself. Ordering the Roman Catholic clergy and liturgy to be restored, she promises to build fine new churches at her own expense, and in a move politically shrewd enough for any Tudor monarch, she abates a portion of the taxes on the commons. When Sir Thomas Wyatt and the Duke of Norfolk urge her to show mercy to Guildford Dudley and Lady Jane Grey, she responds coolly that she will be most merciful to those of mean estate, but most harsh with those who would usurp her throne. Her enthusiastic embrace of the marriage proposal from Phillip II of Spain incites Wyatt to rebel in an effort to keep England out of the hands of the Spanish.


A "ghost character". Mary, Queen of France, was the youngest daughter of Henry VII of England and the sister of Henry VIII. Although forced to marry the ailing Louis XII of France, she was in love with Charles Brandon, the first Duke of Suffolk, and having demanded the right to marry as she wished if Louis were to die, she secretly married Brandon after Louis's death. Wyatt asks the newly installed Queen Mary (Tudor) to pity Lady Jane Grey on the grounds of their close blood relationship: the queen's own aunt is Lady Jane's grandmother.


After the disaster at Ludgate, the unnamed Messenger informs the Duke of Norfolk and the Earl of Arundel that the wounded Sir Thomas Wyatt is coming to surrender to them


Nickname of Holmes, who is a trusted follower of the Duke of Suffolk (who refers to Holmes as Ned). He arranges to hide the duke in a cabin after the arrest of Northumberland, and in spite of swearing absolute loyalty to Suffolk, he leads the Sheriff and officers to arrest him. Guilt stricken after the arrest, Holmes procures a halter, buries the gold he has received for betraying his master (so it will do no further harm), and like Judas, hangs himself.


Norroy, a herald, appears in Sir Thomas Wyatt's camp at Rochester just before the attack led by the Duke of Norfolk. He has come with Queen Mary's offer of pardon to those who retire at once. Even though Sir George Harper urges he be killed, Wyatt allows Norroy to go forward but warns him to be quiet as he performs this task. It is quite possible that the character name should be understood as a title rather than a personal name. There are three Kings-at-Arms or chief heraldic officers in England, one of whom is the Norroy King-at-Arms (the other two are Garter and Clarencieux). After allowing Norroy to go about his task, Wyatt becomes angry and refers to him as a "Whoreson prou'd Herrald, because he can giue armes."


A "ghost character". The suggestion by the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V that his son Phillip II of Spain wed Queen Mary (and the support for such a union by Winchester and others) is the chief reason for Sir Thomas Wyatt's rebellion.


When the Lord Treasurer attempts to leave the council because he disapproves of its initial support for Lady Jane Grey, he browbeats the Porter into letting him pass. When the Earl of Arundel learns of the Treasurer's departure, he orders the Porter to find the nobleman and then to fetch the Lord Mayor of London and some aldermen.


The unnamed Preacher follows the Doctor to report to the Dukes of Northumberland and Suffolk that young King Edward VI has indeed died.


Richard Rose delivers to the Duke of Northumberland the letters from newly installed Queen Mary ordering that he discharge his troops and appear at court. Sensing that his life is forfeit and knowing that his former colleagues on the royal council have shifted their allegiance to the new queen, the duke asks Rose if there have been many deaths at court recently. When Rose assures him there have not, Northumberland sarcastically says he must be mistaken, for once the duke had five hundred friends there but now they are all gone.


The unnamed Sheriff follows Holmes to arrest the Duke of Suffolk, and seeing Holmes kiss the duke's hands in a show of apparent fidelity, compares Holmes to Judas.


At first a follower of Sir Thomas Wyatt, Sir George Harper is charged with giving the herald Norroy safe conduct as he bears Queen Mary's offer of pardon to the rebels, but he uses this task to defect to the queen's forces led by the Duke of Norfolk and the Earl of Arundel. He appears briefly later at London, telling Norfolk that Pembroke and Arundel have fled, an error corrected at once by the arrival of the two earls.


Sir Harry Isley is the member of Wyatt's rebellious party who reports Sir George Harper's defection to the queen's army. A short time later, he appears (without explanation) at the Duke of Norfolk's side with an erroneous report that the Earl of Pembroke has withdrawn.


Sir Henry Bedingfield, a supporter of Queen Mary, brings her the news of Edward VI's death.


Sir Robert Rudstone (Rodston in the speech headings) reports the arrival of the forces of Norfolk and Arundel, and he receives orders from Sir Thomas Wyatt about how to position their musketeers, pike men, archers, and cavalry.


Almost alone among the members of the royal council, Sir Thomas Wyatt objects to the disinheriting of the princesses Mary and Elizabeth, and he refuses to give his approval to the will of Edward VI which calls for Lady Jane Grey to take the English throne. Later, he reminds the council members that years before they had sworn to support the children of Henry VIII and thus manages to shift the council's support to Mary. After Mary's installation, he urges the new queen to show mercy to Lady Jane, pointing to her youth and her close blood ties to Mary herself, but the queen is in favor of the more severe actions endorsed by the Bishop of Winchester. Moments later, Wyatt becomes enraged by Winchester's sycophantic remarks that England should be flattered that the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V should so condescend to suggest a marriage between Mary and his son Phillip II of Spain, and he reminds everyone that they were sworn to uphold both the laws and the last will of Henry VIII which barred Spaniards from English soil. After Mary signals her intention to marry Phillip and sends Count Egmont, the Spanish ambassador, to inform Phillip of her decision, Wyatt determines to raise a force in Kent and save the realm from this Spanish marriage. With his forces at Rochester, Wyatt confronts the army led by the Duke of Norfolk. Although deserted by Sir George Harper before the battle, Wyatt receives new support when the five hundred Londoners led by Alexander Brett leave the queen's forces in order to follow Wyatt to London. At Ludgate, the Earl of Pembroke, who has been named Lieutenant of the City, refuses Wyatt entry, and Sir Thomas finds himself deserted by Brett's London company when they learn that their fellow citizens are firmly supportive of their new queen. The wounded Wyatt surrenders to the queen's officers and is taken to the Tower. He finally is summoned before the Bishop of Winchester, and after the two exchange insults, Wyatt is sentenced to be hanged, drawn, and quartered.


As Sir Thomas Wyatt delivers a rousing speech to his men before Rochester, the unnamed Soldier makes remarks supporting Wyatt's view of their task and his low opinion of the Spanish, then leads the crowd in shouting the battle cry of "A Wyat, a Wyat, a Wyat."

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