John Day Criticism - Essay

A. H. Bullen (essay date 1881)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Bullen, A. H. “Introduction.” In The Works of John Day, edited by A. H. Bullen, pp. 639-67. London: Holland Press, 1963.

[The following essay is taken from a reprint of Bullen's 1881 edition of Day's works. In this introduction, Bullen focuses on the dating of Day's works and appraising his level of talent. He offers praise for the author's delicacy and sweetness, singling out Parliament of Bees and Humour out of Breath as works reflecting Day's poetic strengths.]

In this age of reprinting, when so much pious care is being spent in preserving fresh and sweet the memories of our good old English writers, it is somewhat curious that the author...

(The entire section is 10530 words.)

Arthur Symons (essay date 1888)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Symons, Arthur. “John Day.” In Studies in the Elizabethan Drama, pp. 195-210. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1919.

[In the following essay, written in 1888 and included in his 1919 collection, Symons asserts that Day's modest gift was for light, fanciful verse rather than drama in the mode of Shakespeare or Ben Jonson. Nonetheless, he finds Day's comedies lively and entertaining, if not always consistent or substantial.]

John Day, “sometime Student of Caius College, Cambridge,” a “base fellow” and a “rogue” according to Ben Jonson, a good man and a charming writer if the evidence of his own plays may be credited, seems to have come down to posterity in...

(The entire section is 3216 words.)

A. C. Swinburne (essay date 1919)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Swinburne, A. C. “John Day.” In Contemporaries of Shakespeare, pp. 213-32. London: William Heinemann, 1919.

[In the excerpt below, Swinburne evaluates Day's talent as reflected in his poems and plays, concluding that Day's moderate genius was likely better suited to light verse than drama.]

One of the very greatest poets that ever glorified the world has left on record his wish that Beaumont and Fletcher had written poems instead of plays; and his wish has been echoed by one of the finest and surest critics of poetry, himself an admirable and memorable poet, unequalled in his own line of terse and pathetic narrative or allegory. I am reluctant if not...

(The entire section is 5471 words.)

Samuel Schoenbaum (essay date 1953)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Schoenbaum, Samuel. “John Day and the Elizabethan Drama.” In Boston Public Library Quarterly 5, No. 3 (July 1953): 140-52.

[In this essay, Schoenbaum argues that Day's reputation as a mediocre hack is undeserved. Although he acknowledges Day's limits as a poet and dramatist, the critic praises his skill in writing to please his audience, and suggests that Day's works are undervalued because these light comedies were written in an era when dark tragedies dominated the stage.]

Of all the dramatists of the Elizabethan age, John Day has been perhaps the most neglected. Treated rather poorly by his contemporaries, he has fared even worse in the judgment of...

(The entire section is 4212 words.)

William Peery (essay date 1961)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Peery, William. “The Noble Soldier and The Parliament of Bees.Studies in Philology 48 (April 1961): 219-33.

[In this essay, Peery argues that Day's Parliament of Bees predates Thomas Dekker's The Noble Soldier, clearing Day from the charge that he adapted, and in the process debased, Dekker's work.]

Characters 4 and 5 of John Day's The Parliament of Bees contain extended passages significantly parallel to passages in The Noble Soldier, a play attributed to Day's friend and collaborator, Dekker. Day's editor, A. H. Bullen, in 1881 proposed the following explanation of this phenomenon:


(The entire section is 5926 words.)

William T. Cocke III (essay date 1979)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Cocke, William T., III. “Introduction.” In A Critical Edition of John Day's The Parliament of Bees, pp. xi-xxviii. New York: Garland Publishing, 1979.

[In the excerpt below, Cocke offers an overview of Day's life and work, and focuses on issues of dating Day's work.]


John Day was born about 1574 at Cawston, Norfolk, the son of “Walter, a husbandman.” He attended school at Ely under a Mr. Speight, and on October 24, 1592, when he was eighteen years old, entered Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, as a sizar. After only six months, on May 4, 1593, he was expelled from the college for stealing a book. These...

(The entire section is 2583 words.)

Raymond S. Burns (essay date 1980)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Burns, Raymond S. “Introduction.” In John Day's The Isle of Guls, A Critical Edition, edited by Raymond S. Burns, pp. 1-45. New York: Garland Publishing, 1980.

[In the following excerpt, Burns offers a brief account of the publication history of The Isle of Guls, explicates the play's satire of the court of James I, and examines its sources and background.]


John Day (c. 1574-c. 1640)1 is a shadowy figure whose name appears with some regularity in the pages of Henslowe's Diary from 1598 to 1603. Of the score or more plays in which he had a hand during this time,...

(The entire section is 11693 words.)

John Pitcher (essay date 1994)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Pitcher, John. “‘Fronted with the Sight of a Bear’: Cox of Collumpton and The Winter's Tale.Notes and Queries 41, No. 1 (March 1994): 47-53.

[In this essay, Pitcher uses an account of the staging of Day's Cox of Collumpton to illuminate how Elizabethan audiences might respond to the sight of a bear in Day's play and others.]

The challenge of how to show the bear in Act III of The Winter's Tale continues to put modern directors to the test. Roger Warren, in his account of Sir Peter Hall's production at the National Theatre in 1988, reports that Hall thought that the bear

should be...

(The entire section is 6098 words.)

Anthony Parr (essay date 1995)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Parr, Anthony. “Introduction.” In Three Renaissance Travel Plays, edited by Anthony Parr, pp. 1-54. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1995.

[In the excerpt below, Parr describes the context for travel plays such as Day's Travels of the Three English Brothers, particularly stressing the mixture of fear and fascination felt by the English for the foreign and alien.]

And when, after the long trip, I arrived in Patagonia I felt I was nowhere. But the most surprising thing of all was that I was still in the world—I had been travelling south for months. The landscape had a gaunt expression, but I could not deny that it had...

(The entire section is 8706 words.)