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The Mad Lover is a Jacobean stage play, a tragicomedy by John Fletcher. It was initially published in the first Beaumont and Fletcher folio of 1647. Fletcher's sole authorship was specified during the 17th century by his friend Sir Aston Cockayne. It displays Fletcher's distinctive pattern of stylistic and textual preferences throughout the text, so that his authorship is not questioned.


The play was acted by the King's Men; the cast list added in the second Beaumont and Fletcher folio of 1679 includes Richard Burbage, John Lowin, Robert Benfield, William Ecclestone, Nathan Field, Richard Sharpe, and Henry Condell. This indicates a production between 1616, when Field joined the company, and Burbage's death in March 1619. Lady Anne Clifford mentions in her diary seeing a performance of the play at court on 5 January 1617 (new style).[1] The play was revived in 1630.


Fletcher drew materials for this play from Honoré D'Urfé's novel Astrée, as he did for Monsieur Thomas and Valentinian. Fletcher also borrowed plot materials from Bandello and Josephus. The point in which Cleanthe suborns a priestess to obtain a favorable oracle for her brother Syphax is a version of the Paulina and Mundus story in Josephus.

Restoration revival

The play was revived early in the Restoration era, with Edward Kynaston in the role of the princess (when women onstage were still an innovation and a rarity). Samuel Pepys saw it at the Salisbury Court Theatre on 9 February 1661, again on 2 December the same year, and again on 18 February 1669. On Sunday, 25 September 1664, he "spent all the morning reading of 'The Madd Lovers', a very good play."

The play was adapted to meet changing tastes, as were other Fletcher plays; a version by Peter Anthony Motteux was scored with music and songs by John Eccles and Daniel Purcell and staged by Thomas Betterton in 1703–1704.[2][3]

Melancholy and music

The Mad Lover, in line with its title, deals with a case of "melancholia" or depression over an unsatisfactory romantic attachment. In this it relates to several other dramas of its era, including Fletcher's The Noble Gentleman, The Nice Valour and John Ford's The Lover's Melancholy. The Mad Lover has been noted as "the most extensive example within a single play of the use of musical sound and imagery in the depiction and cure of madness."[4] The characters in the play put on a masque in an attempt to treat the mad general, Memnon; drawing on the myth of Orpheus, it is a masque of beasts and trees, with an ape, a dog, a lion, and dancing trees – all formerly men and foolish lovers.

In 1897, Charles Villiers Stanford composed and orchestrated a musical setting for an excerpt from The Mad Lover, entitled "The Battle of Pelusium."[5]


  1. ^ J. W. Lawrence, "The Date of The Mad Lover," Times Literary Supplement, 24 November 1927, p. 888.
  2. ^ Arthur Colby Sprague, Beaumont and Fletcher on the Restoration Stage, Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 1926; pp. 13–14, 19, 26 and 271–273.
  3. ^ Katherine West Scheil, The Taste of the Town: Shakespearean Comedy and the Early Eighteenth-Century Theater, Lewisburg, PA, Bucknell University Press, 2003, p. 114.
  4. ^ John P. Cutts, "Music in The Mad Lover," Studies in the Renaissance Vol. 8 (1961), pp. 236–248.
  5. ^ Jeremy Dibble, Charles Villiers Stanford: Man and Musician, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2002; p. 289.

6 Annotations

First Reading

TerryF  •  Link

First acted in 1616, there is no edition of it available on the web, but there are two songs from it:


by: John Fletcher

OH, fair sweet goddess, queen of love,
Soft and gentle as thy doves,
Humble-eyed, and ever ruing
Those poor hearts, their loves pursuing!
Oh, thou mother of delights,
Crowner of all happy nights,
Star of dear content and pleasure,
Of mutual loves and endless treasure!
Accept this sacrifice we bring,
Thou continual youth and spring;
Grant this lady her desires,
And every hour we'll crown thy fires.

'To Venus' was originally published in The Mad Lover (1647).


by: John Fletcher

ORPHEUS I am, come from the deeps below,
To thee, fond man, the plagues of love to show.
To the fair fields where loves eternal dwell
There's none that come, but first they pass through hell:
Hark, and beware! unless thou hast loved, ever
Beloved again, thou shalt see those joys never.

Hark how they groan that died despairing!
Oh, take heed, then!
Hark how they howl for over-daring!
All these were men.

They that be fools, and die for fame,
They lose their name;
And they that bleed,
Hark how they speed!

Now in cold frosts, now scorching fires
They sit, and curse their lost desires;
Nor shall these souls be free from pains and fears,
Till women waft them over in their tears.

'Orpheus I am, Come from the Deeps Below' was originally published in The Mad Lover (1647).…

Michael Robinson  •  Link

First published in:-

Comedies and tragedies written by Francis Beaumont and Iohn Fletcher Gentlemen. Neverprinted [sic] before, and now published by the authours originall copies.
London : printed for Humphrey Robinson, at the three Pidgeons, and for Humphrey Moseley, at the Princes Armes in St Pauls Church-yard, 1647.
[52], 75, [1], 143, [1], 165, [3], 71, [1], 172, 92, 51, p. 50, 28, 25-48 p., [1] leaf of plates : port. ; 2⁰.
Wing (CD-Rom, 1996), B1581; Pforzheimer, 53

This was the only edition available to Pepys in the diary period. He replaced the volume later with the 1679 folio 'Works,' PL 2623.

For history, plot etc.:-…

Second Reading

Terry Foreman  •  Link

In the Restoration "The Mad Lover" was revived by the The Duke of York's Company, managed by Sit William Davenant, and first played at Salisbury Court Theatre (opened in 1629), situated in Whitefriars district east of the Temple and south of Fleet St, where Pepys saw it on 9 February 1661.

The Duke's Company transferred to a new theatre in Lincoln's Inn Fields in June 1661, where Pepys saw "The Mad Lover" on 2 December the same year, and again on 18 February 1669. On Sunday, 25 September 1664, he "spent all the morning reading of 'The Madd Lovers', a very good play.".… and…

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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.


  • Feb
  • Dec