Portrait of Michael Drayton

Portrait of Michael Drayton

Michael Drayton was a contemporary of Shakespeare. Although he produced many plays in his lifetime, none are performed today and he is better remembered as a major poet of the Elizabethan period. His most thankless task was collaborating on a play about Sir John Oldcastle. Oldcastle was the name originally given by Shakespeare to the character of Sir John Falstaff in his Henry IV plays. The character proved so popular that Philip Henslowe, owner of the rival theatre to Shakespeare’s, the Rose, commissioned Drayton and others to write a play on the original Sir John Oldcastle. Henslowe, it seems, wished to cash in on Shakespeare's success and also to set the record straight. The historical Oldcastle was a Protestant martyr, very different from the roistering drunkard, Falstaff, but, unsurprisingly, Falstaff proved the more popular of the two and Drayton's play has not survived on the stage.