[Sir John Oldcastle, Part 1 by Michael Drayton, Richard Hathway, Antony Munday and Robert Wilson was first printed in quarto form in 1600. Strangely, it was also included in the third and fourth folios of Shakespeare's Works. Part 2 has not survived. Part 1 was performed by the Admiral's Men towards the end of 1599. The full title for Q1 is The First Part of the True and Honorable History of the Life of Sir John Oldcastle, the Good Lord Cobham. This, along with the prologue reproduced here, indicates that the play was written as a response to Shakespeare's two Henry IV plays, to set the record straight with regard to the character of John Oldcastle. It shows that, although Shakespeare's knight had been renamed Falstaff, the association with Oldcastle and concern about his portrayal persisted. The full play is available in The Oldcastle Controversy: Sir John Oldcastle, Part 1 and The Famous Victories of Henry V, edited by Peter Corbin and Douglas Sedge (Manchester: Manchester UP, 1991).]

The complete old-spelling text of the play is Digital Renaissance Editionspubished on the Internet Shakespeare Editions site.

The Prologue

1The doubtful title, gentlemen, prefixed
Upon the argument we have in hand,
May breed suspense and wrongfully disturb
The peaceful quiet of your settled thoughts.
To stop this scruple let this brief suffice:
It is no pampered glutton we present,
Nor agèd counsellor to youthful sins;
But one whose virtues shone above the rest,
A valiant martyr and a virtuous peer,
In whose true faith and loyalty expressed
To his true sovereign and his country’s weal,
We strive to pay that tribute of our love
Your favors merit. Let fair truth be graced,
Since forged invention former time defaced.