John Ford

The Complete Works of John Ford

John Ford (1586-c. 1639) was a major dramatist, who began his career in the Jacobean public theatre, writing for the King’s Men at the Globe and Blackfriars, but completed it in the Caroline private theatre, with Queen Henrietta’s Men at the Phoenix, Drury Lane. His work spans twenty years of theatrical activity after Shakespeare’s death, his plays are both living dramatic vehicles, as modern revivals have proved, and important evidence for English theatrical and social history.

1. Previous editions

Ford’s plays were last edited in 1869, when Alexander Dyce revised William Gifford’s 1827 edition, in modern spelling; Dyce’s edition received further, slight revisions by A. H. Bullen in 1895. An old-spelling edition of the seven plays in the accepted canon was produced by W. Bang and H. De Vocht in the relative obscurity of their series Materialien zur Kunde des älteren Englischen Dramas, in two instalments (Louvain, 1908, 1927). Since then, his most popular plays have been edited several times, in the Revels, Regents’ Renaissance Drama, Penguin, and New Mermaid series. The canon itself has been enlarged by the confident ascription to Ford of two plays, sole-authored (The Queen, published anonymously in 1653), and co-authored (The Laws of Candy, included in the 1647 Works of Beaumont and Fletcher). In addition, modern scholarship has identified Ford’s share in five co-authored plays: The Sun’s Darling and The Welsh Ambassador (both with Dekker); The Witch of Edmonton (with Dekker and Rowley); The Spanish Gypsy and The Fair Maid of the Inn (with Massinger and Webster). In this edition I attribute The Laws of Candy to Massinger and Ford, and The Spanish Gypsy to Ford and Dekker (with occasional interventions by Middleton).

No previous edition of Ford has included his poems and prose works. A pioneering edition of these, The Non-Dramatic Works of John Ford (general editor Leo Stock), was published in 1991 in old spelling, with textual notes and Commentary, which has served as a valuable reference point. In addition to poems published by Ford in his life time our edition includes Jeremy Maule’s discovery of Ford’s hitherto unknown ‘Elegy on John Fletcher’, and A Funerall Elegye, ascribed to Ford by Brian Vickers, ‘Counterfeiting’ Shakespeare. Evidence, Authorship, and John Ford’s Funerall Elegye (Cambridge University Press, 2002)

The first reason for producing a complete edition of Ford is the advantage of having all his works edited according to the same rigorous editorial principles, presenting his oeuvre in a form that will make him accessible both to readers in general and to scholars. But further, Ford’s poems and prose works (written between 1606 and 1625) form a unity with his plays, for in all three genres Ford was drawn to subject matter involving virtue in adversity, people suffering injustice or death whose merits he celebrated. In his non-dramatic works, speaking in his own person, Ford commemorated exemplars of virtue. These ranged from Jesus (Christes Bloodie Sweat) and reputable heroes (Mountjoy in Fames Memoriall, Harington in A Line of Life) to less acceptable figures, such as Essex and his sister Penelope Rich (Mountjoy’s mistress, mother of five illegitimate children), and Northumberland, incarcerated in the Tower for alleged treason. In his mature drama Ford projected his admiration for nobility in the face of adversity on to characters who flout conventional morality: in ’Tis Pity She’s a Whore the incestuous brother; in The Broken Heart the evil Orgilus; in Perkin Warbeck the illegitimate pretender (or so history presented him: Ford took a different view). The tension that Ford aroused in the audience between emotional involvement and rational disapproval, together with his appeal to a theatrically aware public which could recognize his allusions to other plays, gave him a special place in Caroline drama. By treating Ford’s work as a whole we hope to throw more light on his distinctive contribution to English drama.

2. Editorial principles

All texts will be freshly edited from the editions published during Ford’s lifetime, along with the later publications mentioned above. The textual situation in Ford is relatively straightforward, for with the exception of a few manuscripts (a scribal presentation copy of Fames Memorial in the Bodleian; a scribal ms. of The Welsh Ambassador in the National Library of Wales) most of his works exist in a single Quarto, the later editorial tradition not being established until the 18th century (Dodsley 1744; Dodsley-Reed 1780; Weber 1811; Gifford 1827; Dyce 1869). However, the seven canonical Quartos survive in over 250 copies scattered around the world (between 24 and 40 copies of each play), which will need to be collated for stop-press corrections. Fortunately, microfilms of most of these were presented to the Shakespeare Institute, Stratford-upon-Avon by the generosity of Professor Akihiro Yamada. The Institute kindly loaned us the films for digitisation, and Dr Carter Hailey, using his own Optical Collating Machine (which enables rapid and accurate collation of multiple copies in conjunction with a reference copy-text on a computer screen),  collated several plays for us. Some editors have made additional investigations.

All editorial decisions rest with each editor, in consultation with myself. Texts will preserve the original spellings and (where feasible) punctuation, since it is widely perceived that in Early Modern English the shape and sound of words, together with their syntactical and rhetorical organization, preserve elements of meaning and historical context that are simply destroyed by modernization.

The editors have agreed on a few basic editorial conventions. Speech-prefixes (often abbreviated in copy-texts) are to be printed in full, with spelling standardized; stage-directions, including entrances and exits, are to be regularized; directions that are needed in order to clarify the on-stage action, lacking in the early texts, will be added within square brackets; verse-lineation will be regularized, and prose will be presented in a standard measure. As for correcting or emending the text, rather than attempt to define hard-and-fast principles in advance, we will judge each instance on its merits.

3. Organization of the edition



Volume I

Ed. Gilles Monsarrat, Brian Vickers, and R. J. C. Watt (pp. xxiv+696; ISBN 9780199592906), containing Ford’s poems and prose works, was published in 2012. See the Oxford University Press website for further details.



Brian Vickers

John Ford: The Early Years (1586-1620)                                                              
Gilles Monsarrat

Honor Triumphant and The Monarches Meeting (1606)                          
Edited by Gilles Monsarrat

Fames Memoriall, or The Earle of Devonshire Deceased (1606)                           
Edited by Brian Vickers and R. J .C. Watt

A Funerall Elegie for William Peter (1612)                                                             
Edited by Brian Vickers

Christes Bloodie Sweat (1613)                                                                                  
Edited by R. J. C. Watt and Brian Vickers

The Golden Meane (1613 and 1614)                                                                       
Edited by Gilles Monsarrat

A Line of Life (printed text (1620) and MS)
Edited by Gilles Monsarrat

Elegy on John Fletcher (ca. 1625)                                                                             
Edited by Brian Vickers

Uncollected Pieces in prose and verse (1606-1638)
Edited by Brian Vickers



Ed. Brian Vickers (pp. 992; ISBN 9780198748878) will be published in December 2016. See the Oxford University Press website for further details.


Volume II discusses the authorship attributions of the six co-authored plays.



Introduction 1: Co-authorship in Jacobean and Caroline Drama

Introduction 2: Identifying co-authors

Authorship Introduction Laws of Candy, with Commentary

Authorship Introduction Witch of Edmonton, with Commentary

Authorship Introduction The Welsh Ambassador, with Commentary

Authorship Introduction The Spanish Gypsy, with Commentary

Authorship Introduction The Sun’s Darling, with Commentary

Authorship Introduction The Fair Maid of the Inn, with Commentary


Volume III contains the six co-authored plays, with critical and textual introductions, textual collations, and commentaries on each play.


The Laws of Candy (1619-20), with Massinger
Edited by Brian  Vickers and Christopher Adams

The Witch of Edmonton (1621), with Dekker, Rowley, and Middleton
Edited by Rowland Wymer

The Welsh Ambassador (1623), with Dekker
Edited by Nigel Bawcutt

The Spanish Gypsy (1623), with Dekker, Rowley, and Middleton
Edited by Marcus Dahl, Christopher Adams, and Brian Vickers

The Sun’s Darling (1624), with Dekker
Edited by Christopher Adams and Brian Vickers

The Fair Maid of the Inn (1626), with Massinger and Webster
Edited by Martin Wiggins and Eleanor Lowe




Volume IV is in preparation.


The Queen (1627)
Edited by Eleanor Lowe and Martin Wiggins

The Lover’s Melancholy (1628)
Edited by Tom Cain

The Broken Heart (1629)

Edited by Lisa Hopkins

’Tis Pity She’s a Whore (1631)
Edited by Katsuhiko Nogami and Brian Vickers


Volume V is in preparation.


Perkin Warbeck (1632)
Edited by Gilles Monsarrat

Love’s Sacrifice (1633)
Edited by Nigel Bawcutt

The Fancies, Chaste and Noble (1636)
Edited by Lisa Hopkins

The Lady’s Trial (1638)
Edited by Katsuhiko Nogami


Editorial board

Professor Sir Brian Vickers, Litt.D., F.B.A., School of Advanced Study, London University
Christopher Adams, Institute of English Studies, London University
Dr. Nigel Bawcutt, Emeritus, University of Liverpool
Professor Lisa Hopkins, Sheffield Hallam University
Professor Gilles Monsarrat, Emeritus, University of Burgundy, Dijon
Professor Katsuhiko Nogami, Chiba Institute of Technology, Tokyo
Dr. R. J. C. Watt, Honorary Research Fellow in English, University of Dundee
Dr. Martin Wiggins, the Shakespeare Institute, Stratford-upon-Avon
Professor Rowland Wymer, Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge

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