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Rollo Duke of Normandy, also known as The Bloody Brother, is a play written in collaboration by John Fletcher, Philip Massinger, Ben Jonson, and George Chapman. Scholars have disputed almost everything about the play; but it was probably written sometime in the 1612–24 era and later revised, perhaps in 1630 or after. In addition to the four writers cited above, the names of Nathan Field and Robert Daborne have been connected with the play by individual scholars.

Performance and publication

Details of the play's earliest productions are not preserved in the historical record. The play was seen at the Globe Theatremarker on May 13, 1633, and was acted at Hampton Court Palacemarker on January 24, 1637 (new style). It was entered into the Stationers' Register on October 4, 1639 by the booksellers John Crook and Richard Sergier, as the work of "J. B." It was first published later in 1639, in a quarto printed by R. Bishop for John Crook and Thomas Allot, under the title The Bloody Brother. The title page of this quarto attributes the play to "B. J. F." A second quarto appeared in 1640 under the title The Tragoedy of Rollo Duke of Normandy, published at Oxford by stationer Leonard Lichfield, "Printer to the University." Q2 assigns the play to Fletcher, and asserts that it was acted by the King's Men. Q2 appears to derive from a theatre prompt-book, while Q1 shows less sign of direct contact with the stage and is a more "literary" text. The play was included in the second Beaumont and Fletcher folio of 1679.

A suppressed performance

Though the theatres were officially closed from 1642 to 1660, surreptitious performances occurred sporadically through the era. 1647 was a year of relative official lenience, when the actors were surprisingly active; but the London authorities soon cracked down. On February 5, 1648, King's Men players were arrested in the midst of a clandestine performance of Rollo at the Cockpit Theatremarker. Joseph Taylor was acting Rollo; John Lowin played Aubrey, Charles Hart Otto; Nicholas Burt was Latorch, and Thomas Pollard the Cook. The actors were arrested, and imprisoned in Hatton House for a time; their costumes were confiscated.


Scholars have been divided about the nature of the play's authorship. Some have regarded it as a play that was originally written by Jonson and Chapman and later revised by Fletcher and Massinger; while this scheme makes a good deal of sense, others have disputed it. In his sweeping study of authorship problems in the Fletcher canon, Cyrus Hoy provided this breakdown among the shares of the four dramatists —

Massinger — Act I; Act V, scene 1 (lines 1-90);
Massinger and Fletcher —Act V, 1 (remainder) and 2 (first part);
Fletcher — Act II; Act III, 1 (middle portion) and 2; Act V, 2 (second part);
Chapman — Act III, 1 (excluding middle portion); Act IV, 3;
Jonson — Act IV, 1-2.


Rollo, Duke of Normandy, is locked in a struggle for power with his brother Otto, whom, urged on by the sycophantic LaTorch, he eventually murders. After he commits a number of other bloodthirsty deeds, he is lured into a private meeting with the beautiful Edith, daughter of one of his victims, who plots to murder him; as she hesitates, one Hamond, Captain of the Guards and brother of another of Rollo's victims, breaks in and murders him instead; he is himself killed in the process. Aubrey, Rollo's cousin, succeeds to the Dukedom; he has Edith cloistered, LaTorch whipped and hanged.


  1. G. E. Bentley, "The Diary of a Caroline Theatergoer," Modern Philology Vol. 35 No. 1 (August 1937), pp. 61-72; see p. 63.
  2. E. H. C. Oliphant, The Plays of Beaumont and Fletcher: An Attempt to Determine Their Respective Shares and the Shares of Others, New Haven, Yale University Press, 1927; pp. 457-9
  3. Terence P. Logan and Denzell S. Smith, eds., The Later Jacobean and Caroline Dramatists: A Survey and Bibliography of Recent Studies in English Renaissance Drama, Lincoln, NE, University of Nebraska Press, 1978; p. 71.
  4. Andrew Gurr, The Shakespeare Company 1594–1642, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2004; pp. 203-4.
  5. Judith Milhous and Robert D. Hume, "New Light on English Acting Companies in 1646, 1648, and 1660," Review of English Studies Vol. 42 No. 168 (November 1991), pp. 487-509.
  6. Logan and Smith, pp. 70-2.

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