Title: Damon and Pithias.
Author: Richard Edwards.
Written: c. 1564-66.
First Published: 1571.
Genre: Classical Mythology.
Language Difficulty Rating: 5 (slightly difficult).
Setting: Syracuse, Sicily, c. 4th century B.C.
Style: Verse, umetered rhyming couplets.
Damon and Pithias is the first modern play to combine tragedy and comedy in a single stage production. It is also the earliest play to use a tale from ancient mythology for its plot. As with all subsequent Elizabethan plays of this sort, the low-bred characters, despite their ostensibly exotic identities, are thoroughly English in character and language, a lot of it rather rude. Damon remains an interesting link to the more advanced dramas of Lyly, Peele, Greene and Shakespeare which were to follow it within only a couple of decades.
Our Story: Damon and Pithias, two best friends, are tourists visiting the city of Syracuse. A local weasel tricks Damon into admitting (sort of) that he is a spy, and his words are reported to King Dionysius, who orders him to be executed. The king, however, allows Damon to go home first to settle his affairs, and Pithias volunteers to stay behind to take Damon’s place at the execution block should Damon fail to return within two months.
Download and Read Damon and Pithias:
Further Viewing and Reading:
1. Watch the 1914 silent movie version of Damon and Pythias. This very early full length movie (about 54 minutes running time) from Universal Studios featured spectacular sets, and a cast of 100’s!
2. Article: Shakespeare’s First Play: Common Aspects of Damon and Pithias and the Canon, by David Paul Gontar.
Summary: Many readers of this website may be surprised to learn that there is a large contingent of scholars and researchers who believe, and have argued persuasively for over a century, that the works normally attributed to the merchant from the sticks known as “William Shakespeare” were actually written by Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford. Now, Shakespearean scholar Professor David Gontar has discovered what may be the most important breakthrough in Elizabethan drama studies of the 21st century; specifically, Mr. Gontar’s research may prove that:
(1) the author of Damon and Pithias was none other than Edward de Vere, and
(2) the author of Damon and Pithias also wrote the works attributed to Shakespeare;
The two conclusions combine to give strong – and brand new – evidence that the Earl of Oxford was indeed the author of the Shakespearean canon.
Professor Gontar summarized the results of his recent research on Damon and Pithias specifically for our website.
Still-Familiar Words and Phrases that Appeared in English Literature for the First Time
in Damon and Pithias:
buss (meaning to kiss)
filling (as an adjective)
pawn (as a verb)
plod (meaning to walk slowly)
to “go with one quietly”
“ran…as fast as I could”.
“at one blow”
to “lift up one’s sword against”
share and share (a)like
to “be one’s debtor”
to be “sorry for one”
to “stretch a point”
collocation of limbs and weak, as in “my limbs grow weak”
collocation of sing and in tune, as in “she sang in tune”