Thomas Heywood?
Robert Davenport?



From MS Brit. Lib. Egerton 1994, fols. 30-51, c. 1626, as edited by James B. and Mary M. McManaway, Malone Society Reprints, 1955. The MS also contains plays ascribed to Thomas Heywood (The Captives and The Escapes of Jupiter). The MS is mostly scribal, but there are some insertions that the editors deem authorial. The same hand appears in a MS insertion in the Folger copy of Blurt Master Constable, Q2 (1606), suggesting that the scribe had access to a set of playhouse MSS of the early 17th century. However, nothing in the MS clearly points to any particular company that might have had an interest in the MS in 1626.

The play is based on Richard Peeke's (or Pike's) account of his military exploits: Three to One, Being, an English-Spanish Combat, Performed by a Westerne Gentleman, of Tauystocke in Deuonshire. with an English Quarter-Staffe, against Three Spanish Rapiers and Poniards, at Sherries in Spain, the fifteene day of Nouember, 1625. In the Presence of Dukes, Condes, Marquesses, and other Great Dons of Spaine, being the Counsell of Warre. Printed an [sic] London for I[ohn] T[rundell] 1626. (STC 19529.)

There is no record of performance. Some of the stage directions could be the prompter's, but they may only be the work of a theatrically aware author. The editors suggest that the play's favorable representation of the Spaniards may have made it unsuitable for production at a time when war with Spain was being prepared. But the representation is, in fact, highly ambivalent; Spanish justice, in particular, appears cruel and irrational.

On the question of authorship, Bullen's edition (Old English Plays 2 [1883]) suggests Thomas Heywood; Fleay, however, considered Robert Davenport, because of similarities to The City Nightcap, but finally inclined rather to James Shirley. The McManaways prefer Davenport, because of similarities not only to The City Nightcap but also to King John and Matilda (neither one published until much later than the putative date of the MS).

a synoptic, alphabetical character list


Don Francisco Bustamente is Captain of Cadiz Castle, who surrenders the fort but tries to defend the city, and is arrested for treason. He and Pike meet just prior to their trials, and express mutual respect. His trial at the hands of Don Fernando ends with a sentence of imprisonment, which is subsequently lengthened by the king.


Don Pedro's comic servant. Torn between sympathy for the ravished Eleanora and fear of her ravisher, Henrico, he initially supports Henrico's attempt to undermine Manuel but finally seconds Eleanora's account of her rape.


Commander of one of the English ships, he reluctantly abandons Pike to his fate as a Spanish captive.


Don John's wife, she comes to Pike in prison to thank him for sparing her husband's life. During their conversation Don John arrives and accuses her of infidelity, but Pike offers to defend her honor in a duel.


The clerk aids in the business of all the various trials.


Two such merchants figure in the play.
  • The First is an expositor, who expresses the anxiety of the British before the battle and explains later the events-the Reformation, the accession of Elizabeth, the defeat of the Armada-that have led up to it.
  • The Second is the on-stage audience for the first Devonshire merchant's exposition.


The hero of the play, a squire of Tavistock in Devon and captain of the ship Convertine. He shines in the first attack, refuses treatment for a wound in his side, and tries to carry the initial naval advantage onto shore. There he defeats Don John in single combat, but as the Spaniard is surrendering, twelve Spanish musketeers arrive to capture the Englishman. Don John treacherously wounds him in the face after he has been disarmed, and while Pike is being led off to prison a Fleming wounds him again. When Don John's wife, Catelina, comes to thank him for his chivalric behavior, he first suspects but then thanks her. During his trial, he is examined on the strength of the English army, and speaks boldly if not accurately. He insists that it was Don John, not he, who attacked first; he only defended himself. Asked by Girona if he will fight, he says that he will, even in chains. Unchained but unarmed, he defeats Tiago; then, armed only with a quarterstaff, he defeats three Spanish soldiers armed with sword and dagger, killing one and disarming the other two. All of his judges honor him. Invited by the king to join the royal service, he declines, and is sent home to Devon laden with praise and with gold.


Governor of Cadiz, and father of Eleanora, he takes command of the defense of the city against the English attack, and his decision to discharge the garrison contributes to the initial English success. Subsequently, he conducts the trial of Bustamente. He joins Teniente in censuring Don John for wounding the defenseless Pike, and proposes that Eleanora's complaint of rape against Henrico be tried at Sherries (Xerez).


A Spanish colonel. He is defeated by Pike in single combat in the second phase of the battle, but rescued by a party of Spanish soldiers, and treacherously wounds the disarmed Pike in the face to avenge his defeat. Further infuriated by the respect shown to Pike by his wife, Catelina, he looks to Pike's trial as his means to achieve full revenge.


A Spanish grandee of Cadiz, advisor to the king and father of Manuel and Henrico. At the opening of the play he leaves on an embassage to France, postponing the marriage of Henrico and Eleanora until his return. Her letter accusing Henrico of rape devastates him, and he decides to return to Cadiz. He sends Manuel ahead with instructions to cover up the rape by an immediate marriage. He returns, disguised as a friar, just when both sons have been condemned to die, but reveals himself in time to save their lives.


A Spanish nobleman, one of the four judges at Sherris. Before the trials start he announces the king's proclamation that the soldiers who fled from Cadiz will be summarily executed, and Bustamente's extended sentence.


Also called Giron, he is one of the four judges at Sherris.


One of the judges at Sherris, he indicates the honor in which Pike is held by appointing a guard of 200 men to accompany the Devonshire captain to the courtroom.


Daughter of Don Fernando, betrothed to Henrico. During the English attack Eleanora tries to resist Henrico's lustful assault but is too weak. Henrico denies the rape to both her father and to the court at Xerez, but the judges believe her; when they give her a choice between his death and marriage she chooses the latter, but he will not have her. Her continuing love saves his life, however, and in the end they are reconciled.


A pair of Irishmen, they come to Pike in prison on the eve of his trial to give him auricular confession. He leaves the stage to forestall them by confessing directly to God, in good Protestant fashion; while he is gone they reveal that they have earlier spied for the Spanish on the English preparations for the raid on Cadiz.


A Spanish gentleman accompanies Catelina to Pike's trial, and hears of the honor she bestows on the English hero.


Younger son of Don Pedro, betrothed to Eleanora. During the English attack Henrico escorts her to her father's house, and despite her protestations of fidelity is smitten by sudden, irrational jealousy, and, to make her unequivocally his, rapes her, threatening the servant Buzzano with death should the latter reveal the crime. When Eleanora accuses him to her father, he denies the charge, and when his brother Manuel arrives to investigate Eleanora's complaint, Henrico falsely accuses him of murdering their father. He is tried for both crimes, and convicted when Buzzano testifies against him. But both his victims forgive him, and he is restored to grace.


An English gentleman, member of the raiding party, who in discussing Pike's ransom with some Spaniards observes that the Cornishman has more valor than policy.


The comically venal supervisor of Pike's captivity.


An English gentleman, he carries the General's offer of ransom for Pike to the Spaniards, and surmises that Pike's courage and bearing seem to have suggested that the Cornishman is of greater social consequence than is, in fact, the case.


Though he never appears on the stage, the King of Spain is heard from by means of messengers at various points in the play. After Pike's trial, he receives the English warrior in Madrid and offers him a place in the royal guard; when Pike declines the king gives him safe conduct back to England, and a cash reward to boot.


Pike reports that when he lodged with this lady on the way to meet the king, she extended wonderful hospitality to him.


Don Pedro's older son, he accompanies his father to France. When Eleanora's letter accusing Henrico of rape arrives, he is sent to investigate the complaint, and if it seems true to insist on an immediate marriage. Henrico accuses him of murdering their father; at the trial, Manuel offers trial by combat, but instead is sent off by Macado to be racked. Rather than face the agony Manuel appeals to Henrico in vain, then gives a false confession. Sentenced to die, he asserts that his confession was elicited by fear, not guilt, and when the supposedly dead father appears, Manuel's willingness to forgive his errant brother brings on the happy ending.


A Spanish nobleman, one of the judges at Sherris. After Pike fights so bravely, the Marquess embraces him, and sends him honorably clothed and escorted to Madrid to be presented to the king.


Mentioned by the first Devonshire Merchant as a prime cause of the war by the example of his successful attacks on Spain.


Two soldiers have more central roles.
  • The First is an English man-at-arms and reports the capture of the fort of Cadiz and of its commander.
  • The Second is a comic character who prefers eating and especially drinking to fighting.


Three nameless English men-at-arms encountered by Pike when he comes ashore; they share with him their booty of Spanish fruit, assuring him that all the Spaniards have fled; all three are killed by Spanish reinforcements while enjoying the fruit.


On their way to reinforce Cadiz, a dozen musketeers first kill some English soldiers who have decided too soon that the war is over, then capture Pike.


During Pike's trial by combat, three experienced Spanish soldiers armed with sword and dagger assail him; armed only with a quarterstaff he kills one of them and disarms the other two.


A Spanish judge, friend of Don Pedro, Teniente acts as prosecutor in the trial of Bustamente, and honors the captured Pike for his valor. Before Henrico's trial, he probes the young man's murky and conflicted motives.


The unarmed Pike easily defeats this first assailant during his trial by combat.


According to the English soldiers, the company consisting of men of Whitehall distinghished themselves during the assault by discharging 4,000 bullets on Cadiz Castle.


Pike's fellow prisoner, but about to be released, he agrees to carry messages of love and encouragement to Pike's wife and children in Tavistock.