Macbeth and Malory in the 1625 Edition of Peter Heylyn’s Microcosmus: A Nearly Unfortunate Tale

  • Toshiyuki Takamiya
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


Peter Heylyn, MA, DD (1599–1662), known chiefly nowadays for his Laudian polemic and staunch support for Charles I, was a most prolific controversialist in the seventeenth century.1 Throughout his life he found himself criticized as authoritarian, polemical, or choleric by his enemies (his rival, John Hackett, called him a “bluster-master,” for example); nonetheless, he was justly famous among his contemporaries as England’s foremost geographer.2 I strongly suspect Terry Jones—no stranger to prolific controversy—would have loved to portray this extraordinary man in one of the Monty Python episodes, especially since, on one occasion at least, Heylyn seems to have teetered, tragic-comically enough, on the brink of disaster.


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  1. 2.
    It is perhaps relevant here to mention my sources for Heylyn’s biographical information, given the scarcity of his extant autograph manuscripts and letters, the understandable result of his unsettled life as a refugee, moving in England from one place to another when the political conflicts became extreme after the 1640s. I have drawn variously on the followingGoogle Scholar
  2. Peter Heylyn, “Heylyn’s Own Memoranda,” in Memorial of Bishop Waynflete, ed. John Rouse Bloxam (London: Caxton Club, 1851; New York: Franklin, 1967) x–xxivGoogle Scholar
  3. [George Vernon], “The Life of the Most Learned and Reverend Dr. Peter Heylyn,” in The historical and Miscellaneous Tracts of the Reverend and Learned Peter Heylyn, D.D. (London: Harper, 1681), pp. i–xxviiiGoogle Scholar
  4. George Vernon, The Life of the Learned and Reverend Dr. Peter Heylyn (London: Harper, 1682)Google Scholar
  5. John Barnard, Ecclesia Restaurata: Or, the History of the Reformation of the Church, by Peter Heylyn (London, 1683; ed. James Craigie Robertson, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1849)Google Scholar
  6. Michael Creighton’s anonymous article in the DNB Anthony Milton’s in the Oxford DNB and the latter’s seminal monograph, Laudian and Royalist Polemic in Seventeenth-Century England: The Career and Writings of Peter Heylyn (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2007).Google Scholar
  7. 3.
    Peter Heylyn, Microcosmus, or a little description of the great world (Oxford: printed by John Lichfield and James Short, printers to the famous University, 1621).Google Scholar
  8. 4.
    Nicolas Barker, The Oxford University Press and the Spread of Learning: An Illustrated History (Oxford: Clarendon, 1978), 9Google Scholar
  9. Peter Heylyn, Cosmographie (London: Henry Seile, 1652); ed. and introd. Robert Mayhew (Bristol: Thoemmes, 2003).Google Scholar
  10. 5.
    O. F. G. Sitwell, Four Centuries of Special Geography (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1993).Google Scholar
  11. 6.
    For detailed bibliographical descriptions of editions of the Microcosmus, see John Huber Walker, “A Descriptive Bibliography of the Early Printed Works of Peter Heylyn,” Unpublished PhD Dissertation, the Shakespeare Institute, the University of Birmingham, 1978.Google Scholar
  12. 7.
    Samuel Purchas, Microcosmvs, or the Historie of Man (London: William Stansby, 1619; Amsterdam: Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, 1969)Google Scholar
  13. George Abbot, A Briefe Description of the Whole Worlde (London: T. Judson, 1599; Amsterdam: Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, 1970).Google Scholar
  14. 8.
    Robert J. Mayhew. “Peter Heylyn.” Geographers: Biobiblio-graphical Studies 28 (2009): 1–16.Google Scholar
  15. For example, Ingrid Benecke, “Simon Forman’s Notes on Macbeth?The Alternative Reading,” Notes and Queries 57.3 (2010): 389–93Google Scholar
  16. Willard Farnham, Shakespeare’s Tragic Frontier: The World of His Final Tragedies (Oxford: Blackwell, 1973)}Google Scholar
  17. S. Schoenbaum, William Shakespeare: Records and Images (London: Scolar, 1981)Google Scholar
  18. Leah Scragg, “Macbeth on Horseback,” Shakespeare Survey 26 (1973): 81–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 14.
    William C. Carroll, “‘Two Truths are Told’: Afterlives and Histories of Macbeths,” Shakespeare Survey 57 (2004): 69–80.Google Scholar
  20. Carroll argues that Heylyn did not know Shakespeare’s tragedy, because he did not mention either Lady Macbeth or Macbeth’s good governance for well over ten years. J. P. Hudson suggests some possible connections between Heylyn and Shakespeare in “Peter Heylyn’s Poetry Notebook,” British Museum Quarterly 34 (1969): 19–27.Google Scholar
  21. 15.
    Forman, Boeke of Plaies, Bodleian Library MS Ashmole 208, ff. 207r-v; quoted in William Shakespeare, Macbeth, ed. A. R. Braunmuller (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 57–58.Google Scholar
  22. See further, Benecke, Farnham, and Scragg in note 10 above, and Carroll in note 13; Lauren Kassell, Medicine and Magic in Elizabethan London: Simon Forman, Astrologer, Alchemist, and Physician (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005)Google Scholar
  23. J. M. Nosworthy, “‘Macbeth’ at the Globe,” The Library, S5.ll (1947): 108–18Google Scholar
  24. A. L. Rowse, Simon Forman: Sex and Society in Shakespeare’s Age (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1974)Google Scholar
  25. Barbara Howard Traister, The Notorious Astrological Physician of London: Works and Days of Simon Forman (Chicago: University of Chicago Press., 2001)Google Scholar
  26. John Dover Wilson and R. W. Hunt, “The Authenticity of Simon Forman’s Bocke of Plaies,” Review of English Studies 23 (1947): 193–200.Google Scholar
  27. 17.
    Heylyn, Microcosmus (1621), 266.Google Scholar
  28. 18.
    Heylyn, Microcosmus (1625), 503–04.Google Scholar
  29. 21.
    Heylyn, Microcosmus (1625), 463.Google Scholar
  30. 22.
    For discussions of the king’s evil, see Marc Bloch, Les rois thaumaturges (Paris: Colin, 1961) and Raymond Crawfurd, The King’s Evil (New York: AMS, 1977).Google Scholar
  31. W. R. Rye, England as Seen by Foreigners (1865), 151: quoted by Braunmuller, William Shakespeare, Macbeth 244.Google Scholar
  32. 29.
    Anthony Milton, “The Creation of Laudianism: A New Approach,” in Religion and Popularity in Early Stuart Britain: Essays in Honour of Conrad Russell, ed. Thomas Cogswell, Richard Cust and Pater Lake (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 162–84.Google Scholar

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© R. F. Yeager and Toshiyuki Takamiya 2012

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  • Toshiyuki Takamiya

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