5Dating the Play

Although An Humorous Day’s Mirth was not entered in the Stationers’ Register, Henslowe’s records note the first performance of a play known as ‘the comodey of vmers’ on 11 May 1597.[149] Accepting Fleay’s association of this reference with An Humorous Day’s Mirth, May 1597 becomes the upper limit of estimated composition.

Chapman’s previous hit for Henslowe, The Blind Beggar of Alexandria, was playing at the Rose theatre from 12 February 1595 until 1 April 1597, according to Henslowe’s own records. He seems to have been planning a revival of it, since further records in 1601 note payments made for its clothing. An Humorous Day’s Mirth shows Chapman clearly drawing on his first comedy’s experimentation with humours used by one character to disguise himself in three specifically characterised roles. Chapman extends this motif to a play whose comedy is based solely on humours, and, as such, is the first play of its kind. Since An Humorous Day’s Mirth develops themes explored in The Blind Beggar of Alexandria, and from Henslowe’s evidence of performance chronology, it is safe to ascertain that the composition of The Blind Beggar of Alexandria preceded that of An Humorous Day’s Mirth. The play is therefore dated 1597, year of first performance, unless the printed text of 1599 is specifically referenced.