Other literary forms
Thomas Sackville’s other contribution to English literature was the play performed first before a select audience at the Inner Temple (where Sackville was a young student of the law) on January 6, 1561, and then before Queen Elizabeth on January 18, “with grett tryumphe” according to one observer. The title pages of two of the three editions printed in the sixteenth century describe the drama as the joint work of two fellow students, Sackville and Thomas Norton, yet the extent of Norton’s contribution is disputed. Because the play was the first in England to use the elements of dramatic blank verse, the regular form of tragedy, and a subject from English chronicle history, its importance in literary history is assured. Moreover, the play is characteristic of the concerns of Sackville’s two poems and of his long public life: In language, structure, and theme, it focuses on the political evils caused by an insecure succession. Both Norton and Sackville were involved in parliamentary debate on the issue of Queen Elizabeth’s reluctance to marry, which was for the majority of the years of her reign a topic of deep national concern.
One other work of Sackville is known, a prefatory sonnet commending Thomas Hoby’s The Book of the Courtier, a 1561 translation of Baldassare Castiglione’s Il libro del cortegiano (1528). A recent survey of the evidence (by Allan H. Orrick in Notes and Queries, January, 1956) has concluded that there is no substance to the tradition that Sackville wrote a number of sonnets and other short poems now lost. Sackville had completed his few writings in belles letters by early 1561, when he was twenty-five or twenty-six years old and had already embarked on his entirely absorbing, important career. In addition to his literary writings, interesting letters and documents concerning public affairs have survived.