Books

Mini Book Review: The Devil’s Charter by Barnabe Barnes

The_Devils_CharterTitle: The Devil’s Charter
Author: Barnabe Barnes
Genre: Classics / Tragedy
Date: 
c.1607
Started: 25th September 2017
Completed: 25th September 2017
Rating: 4.5/5
Summary: The Devil’s Charter is an early Jacobean era stage play, a tragedy written by Barnabe Barnes. The play recounts the story of Pope Alexander VI.


The Devil’s Charter is available as a free ebook here.

Barnabe Barnes was a contemporary of William Shakespeare but he is virtually unknown and rarely studied. The Devil’s Charter was first printed in 1607, around the same time as Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra and Coriolanus.


I personally read this play as part of my PhD thesis but I really enjoyed, perhaps in part due to my fascination with the Borgia family, so I thought I’d do a really quick review about the play. I really wish I could see it live one day but I doubt that will ever happen.

This play is based on the lives of Roderigo Borgia, who became Pope Alexander VI, and his family. Barnes has Roderigo sell his soul to the devil, or a demon, for power and the play documents his descent into sin and his ultimate downfall. Some of the events in the play are based upon real events or rumours surrounding the Borgia family, like the relationship between Roderigo and his daughter Lucrezia and the fact that Cesare Borgia killed his own brother, Giovanni. This play, or the story of the real-life Borgia family, is not for the fainthearted as it features murder, incest, witchcraft, and badly translated Latin.

I really hated that the Latin was almost untranslatable because this play is so useful for my thesis but this is probably because I worked from a facsimile version rather than the one I’ve provided a link to at the beginning of this review.

Would I recommend reading this play? Of course, I would. However, even the edition that I’ve provided uses the old spelling so I understand that it may be difficult to read. Also, not everyone is as into early modern tragedies as I am so you may not even enjoy it. I just really wanted to share this play with everyone because I love it.


Read for The Classics Club.

5 thoughts on “Mini Book Review: The Devil’s Charter by Barnabe Barnes

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