George Chapman

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Plays by George Chapman

Eastward Ho!

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

A collaboration between Jonson, Chapman and Marston, Eastward Ho! is a masterpiece of city comedy. Unique among the ‘coterie’ city comedies written for boy players, Eastward Ho! gives all classes a full satiric treatment simultaneously didactic, ironic, and triumphantly comic.

Touchstone is an upright London citizen, a goldsmith. He has one modest and one ambitious daughter, and one righteous and one disreputable apprentice. He marries his respectable daughter to his respectable apprentice, but his wilful daughter is determined to become a lady and marries herself off to a lord of doubtful finances, while his other mercurial apprentice casts aside his indentures in order to climb the social ladder. A series of chaotic accidents ensures that virtue is rewarded, and ruthlessness comes to grief – receiving a drenching in the muddy Thames.

Eastward Ho! was performed at the Blackfriars playhouse in 1605. The play may well have been provoked by Dekker and Webster’s Westward Ho!, produced by Paul’s Boys in 1604; Eastward Ho! parodies the earlier play’s form.

George Chapman (1560-1634) was an English poet and dramatist, also noted for his translations of the Iliad and the Odyssey (which inspired Keats's sonnet 'On First Looking into Chapman's Homer'). Chapman, who is thought to have served as a soldier in his youth, began to write plays for the Admiral's Men in the 1590s; his earlier works include the comedy An Humorous Day's Mirth (1597), which influenced Jonson's Every Man in His Humour (1598).

Most of Chapman's surviving plays date from the first decade of the 17th century, the tragedy Bussy D'Ambois (1604) and its sequel The Revenge of Bussy D'Ambois (1610) being usually considered his best work. In 1605, in collaboration with Ben Jonson and John Marston, Chapman wrote Eastward Ho!, a play that King James I found so offensive to his fellow Scots that he had Chapman and Marston imprisoned for their part in it. Nonetheless, it has proved to be Chapman's most frequently revived work.