The Lady of May by Philip Sidney.

Philip Sidney by an unknown artist.
The Lady of May is a short, one act play by the Elizabethan poet Sir Philip Sidney, written around 1578-79. This is my introduction to Sidney: I had planned on reading Astrophel and Stella or The Old Arcadia, yet somehow ended up reading one of his minor works first. Still, however tricky it was, I do believe it was a good introduction!

It begins,
Her most Excellent Maiestie walking in Wansteed Garden, as she passed down into the grove, there came svddenly among the traine, one apparrelled like an honest mans wife of the countrey, where crying out for iustice, and desiring all the Lords and Gentlemen to speake a good word for her, she was brought to the presence of her Maiestie to whom vpon her knees she offered a supplication, and vsed this speech.
Tʜᴇ Sᴜɪᴛᴏʀ: Most faire Lady, for as for other your titles of state statelier persons shall giue you, and thus much mine owne eies are witnesses of, take here the complaint of me poore wretch, as deeply plunged in miserie, as I wish you to the highest point of happinesse.
One onely daughter I have, in whom I had placed all the hop[e]s of my good hap, so well had she with her good parts recompenced my paine of bearing her, and care of bringing her vp: but now alas that shee is come to the time I should reape my full comfort of her, so is shee troubled with that notable matter, which wee in the countrey call matrimonie, as I cannot chuse but feare the losse of her wits, at least of her honesty. Other women thinke they may bee vnhappily combred with one master husband, my poore daughter is oppressed with two, both louing her, both equally liked of her, both striuing to deserue her. But now lastly (as this iealousie forsooth is a vile matter) each haue brought their pertakers with them, and are at this present, (without your presence redresse it) in some bloudy controuersie now sweete Lady helpe, your owne way guides you to the place where they incomberd her: I dare stay here no longer, for our men say in the countrey, the sight of you is infectious.
And with that she went away a good pace, leauing the supplication with her Maiestie, which very formerly contained this.
This "suitor" is a woman, and she describes how her daughter, the Lady of May, has two suitors Therion and Espilus, who wish to marry her. The supplicant and the Queen are soon joined by a crowd of people including the Lady of May, six foresters and six shepherds (among them Therion and Espilus), as well as a schoolmaster called Rombus. There is a quarrel, a singing competition (oddly enough!), and a debate, and then the Queen chooses who the Lady of May should marry...

It's a sweet piece, reminiscent of the Greek pastoral poems and stories of the second and first century B.C. I enjoyed it, though it did feel a little random, but it certainly has me wanting to read more Sidney.

And that was my 14th title for the Deal Me In Challenge. Later in the week - The Whole Duty of a Woman by Edmund Gosse.


  1. i like Sydney quite a bit... i got about half way through "Arcadia" and got distracted; must finish it one of these days... his poetry is excellent, imo...

  2. I remember reading parts of Arcadia as part of my undergraduate reading, but I found it, well challenging and have not revisited Philip since then, but now I need consider re-reading it again!

    1. I do want to read Arcadia, but that doesn't stop me from being rather nervous! Elizabethan poets are not the easiest :)


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