'Mr Pett' Identified? A Forgotten Early Modern Playwright

Matteo Pangallo


On May 17, 1600, Philip Henslowe lent Admiral’s Men actor Robert Shaw six pounds as full payment for the two authors of the (now lost) play Strange News Out of Poland. The authors were the established professional William Haughton and the otherwise unknown “mr pett”. The identity of Pett has remained an enigma. F. G. Fleay suggested that Henslowe meant to write ‘Chett’, for ‘Chettle’. W. W. Greg, however, noted that Henslowe never abbreviated Henry Chettle’s name unless he was pressed for space (which he is not in the Poland entry) and he never appended the honorific of “mr” to his name. The name Pett is fairly common and belongs to an extended family best known for its involvement in early modern England’s shipbuilding industry. Fleay, Greg, and more recent historians who have examined Henslowe’s papers have neglected to notice that circumstantial evidence does exist for two candidates for the mysterious “Mr Pett”, both belonging to that noted family. This note presents the evidence for both candidates and proposes that one is more likely to have been the forgotten early modern playwright recorded by Henslowe.


Henslowe; theater history; shipbuilding; Admiral's Men; Pett

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