Cyril Tourneur

Cyril Tourneur (/tʊrnər/; died 28 February 1626) was an English soldier, diplomat and dramatist who wrote The Atheist's Tragedy (published 1611); another (and better-known) play, The Revenger's Tragedy (1607), formerly believed to be by him, is now more generally attributed to Thomas Middleton.


Cyril Tourneur was the son, or possibly the grandson, of Edward Tournor of Canons, Great Parndon (Essex), and his second wife, Frances Baker. He served in his youth Sir Francis Vere and Sir Edward Cecil. His literary activities seem to be concentrated in the period 1600-1613. In 1613 and 1614 he was employed in military and diplomatic service in the Low Countries. In 1625 he was appointed to be secretary to the council of war for the Cádiz Expedition. This appointment was cancelled, but Tourneur sailed in Cecil's company to Cádiz. On the return voyage from the disastrous expedition, he was put ashore at Kinsale with other sick men and died in Ireland on 28 February 1626.[1]


A difficult allegorical poem called The Transformed Metamorphosis (1600) is Tourneur's earliest extant work; an elegy on the death of Prince Henry, son of James I of England, is the latest (1613). Tourneur's other non-dramatic works include a prose pamphlet, Laugh and Lie Down (1605),[2] some contributions to Sir Thomas Overbury's Book of Characters and an epicede on Sir Francis Vere. This poem conveys the poet's ideal conception of a perfect knight or happy warrior.

Tourneur's primary dramatic work is The Atheist's Tragedy, or The Honest Man's Revenge which was published in 1611. A case has been made by Johan Gerritsen that Tourneur is the author of the first act of The Honest Man's Fortune (1613), a play from the Beaumont & Fletcher canon usually attributed to John Fletcher, Philip Massinger and Nathan Field.[3] In addition there is a lost play, The Nobleman, and the lost Arraignment of London written with Robert Daborne. The Revenger's Tragedy (1607), which was once attributed to Tourneur, has now been securely reassigned to Thomas Middleton.

Tourneur's current reputation however rests on The Atheist's Tragedy. It confidently reproduces themes and conventions which are characteristic of medieval morality plays and of Elizabethan memento mori emblems. It uses these conventions in the context of Calvin's Protestant theology. This and Tourneur's other uncontested works, show him to be "a traditional Christian moralist, with a consistent didactic bent."[4]

As regards The Revenger's Tragedy, formerly attributed to Tourneur, "there now ... appears to be an overwhelming case for the authorship of Thomas Middleton".[5] The play was published anonymously, and Tourneur was only described as the author in a 1650s booklist. External and internal evidence strongly suggests that the true author was the more distinguished Middleton. In the Stationers' Register of 1607, The Revenger's Tragedy and A Trick to Catch the Old One can be found in the same double entry. In every other double entry of this register, the plays prove to be by the same author, and we are certain that A Trick was written by Middleton.[6] It is also known from contemporary records that Middleton composed another play called The Viper and her Brood, of which nothing survives. Some scholars think that Viper and The Revenger's Tragedy are in fact one and the same play.

Modern stagings of The Atheist's Tragedy remain few and far between.

Works of Tourneur

  • The Atheists Tragedie; or, The Honest Mans Revenge (1611)
  • A Funeral Poeme Upon the Death of the Most Worthie and True Soldier, Sir Francis Vere, Knight.. (1609)
  • A Griefe on the Death of Prince Henrie, Expressed in a Broken Elegie ..., printed with two other poems by John Webster and Thomas Haywood as Three Elegies on the most lamented Death of Prince Henry (1613)
  • The Transformed Metamorphosis (1600), an obscure satire
  • The Nobleman, a lost play entered on the Stationers Register (Feb. 15, 1612) as "A Tragecomedye called The Nobleman written by Cyrill Tourneur", the MS. of which was destroyed by John Warburton's cook
  • Arraignment of London (1613), stated in a letter of that date from Robert Daborne to Philip Henslowe that Daborne had commissioned Cyril Tourneur to write one act of this play


  1. ^ Gunby (n.d.)
  2. ^ Works of Cyril Tourneur, ed. Allardyce Nicoll (1929), pp. 273-296.
  3. ^ The Honest Man’s Fortune, J. Gerittsen (1952).
  4. ^ Gunby (n.d.)
  5. ^ Gunby (n.d.).
  6. ^ Gibbons (1991), ix.
  • Gibbons, Brian, (ed). (1991). The Revenger's Tragedy; New Mermaids edition (2nd edition). New York: Norton, 1991
  • Gunby, David. "Tourneur, Cyril (d. 1626)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/27582. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  • Wikisource Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Tourneur, Cyril" . Encyclopædia Britannica. 27 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
  •  Seccombe, Thomas (1899). "Tourneur, Cyril" . In Lee, Sidney. Dictionary of National Biography. 57. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
Other reading
  • Parfitt, George, ed. The Plays of Cyril Tourneur. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1978.
  • Higgins, Michael H. 'The Influence of Calvinistic Thought in Tourneur's Atheist's Tragedy', Review of English Studies XIX.75 (Jul 1943), 255-262.

Year 1575 (MDLXXV) was a common year starting on Saturday (link will display the full calendar) of the Julian calendar.

1575 in literature

This article presents lists of the literary events and publications in 1575.

1575 in poetry

Nationality words link to articles with information on the nation's poetry or literature (for instance, Irish or French).

1611 in literature

This article presents lists of the literary events and publications in 1611.

1613 in literature

This article presents lists of the literary events and publications in 1613.

1625 in literature

This article presents lists of the literary events and publications in 1625.

1626 in literature

This article presents lists of the literary events and publications in 1626.

1626 in poetry

Nationality words link to articles with information on the nation's poetry or literature (for instance, Irish or France).

Imaginary Lives

Imaginary Lives (original French title: Vies imaginaires) is a collection of twenty-two semi-biographical short stories by Marcel Schwob, first published in book form in 1896. Mixing known and fantastical elements, it was one of the first works in the genre of biographical fiction. The book is an acknowledged influence in Jorge Luis Borges's first book A Universal History of Infamy. Borges also translated the last story "Burke and Hare, Assassins" into Spanish.Most chapters had been published individually in the newspaper Le Journal between 1894 and 1985. For the collected edition he substituted "Vie de Morphiel, démiurge" with "Matoaka", which had appeared in 1893 in L'Echo de Paris and that he renamed "Pocahontas, princesse".

List of book titles taken from literature

Many authors will use quotations from literature as the title for their works. This may be done as a conscious allusion to the themes of the older work or simply because the phrase seems memorable. The following is a partial list of book titles taken from literature. It does not include phrases altered for parody. (Titles taken from works by William Shakespeare do not appear here: see List of titles of works taken from Shakespeare.)

Lust's Dominion

Lust's Dominion, or The Lascivious Queen is an English Renaissance stage play, a tragedy written perhaps around 1600 and first published in 1657, probably written by Thomas Dekker in collaboration with others.

The play has been categorized as a revenge tragedy, comparable to Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy, Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus and Hamlet, and to tragedies by Thomas Middleton (The Revenger's Tragedy), John Webster (The White Devil) and Cyril Tourneur (The Atheist's Tragedy).


In works of art, macabre (US: mə-KAHB or UK: ; French: [makabʁ]) is the quality of having a grim or ghastly atmosphere. The macabre works to emphasize the details and symbols of death. The term also refers to works particularly gruesome in nature.

Matthew Jocelyn

Matthew Jocelyn (born 1958) is the former artistic and general director of Canadian Stage, the largest not-for-profit theatre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Prior to his appointment at Canadian Stage, Jocelyn was the artistic and general director of the Atelier du Rhin in Alsace, France for 10 years. Under his leadership, the organization became a major centre for multidisciplinary arts in France. He was named Chevalier des Art et des Lettres (Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters), by the French Ministry of Culture in July 2008.

Revenge play

The revenge tragedy, or revenge play, is a dramatic genre in which the protagonist seeks revenge for an imagined or actual injury. The term, revenge tragedy, was first introduced in 1900 by A.H. Thorndike to label a class of plays written in the late Elizabethan and early Jacobean eras (circa 1580s to 1620s).

Robert Daborne

Robert Daborne (c. 1580 – 23 March 1628) was an English dramatist of the Jacobean era.

His father was also Robert Daborne, heir to family property in Guildford, Surrey and other places, including London, and a wealthy haberdasher by trade. He is now thought to have been a "sizar"—an undergraduate exempt from fees—at King's College, Cambridge in 1598. His marriage record suggests that he was a Gent. and member of the Inner Temple. Daborne was married to Anne Younger in 1602 at St Mary's Church South Walsham by the local cleric, who was nephew to Anne's father, Robert Younger, the owner of Old Hall, South Burlingham; they had at least one child, a daughter, but his wife Anne died in childbirth. He was living with his father-in-law in Shoreditch by 1609, but his father-in-law died and there was a bitter dispute among the family members subsequently regarding the inheritance. A 1608 document show that Daborne owed £50 to Robert Keysar, one of the managers of the Children of the Queen's Revels. In January 1610 Daborne is listed as one of the patentees (partners or backers) of the Queen's Revels Children when Philip Rosseter re-organized that troupe of boy actors. It is generally assumed that Daborne wrote for that company as a dramatist, and when the troupe linked with the Lady Elizabeth's Men for a time around 1613, Daborne came into the circle of playwrights who worked for impresario Philip Henslowe.

Henslowe's records in the collection of Dulwich College contain more than thirty references to Daborne in letters, receipts, and other documents in the 1613-15 period. Constantly impecunious, like so many of his writing contemporaries, Daborne relied on the self-interested generosity of Henslowe, to whom he was indebted for a series of small loans. He worked on at least five plays for Henslowe in this era, either alone or with collaborators who included Cyril Tourneur, John Fletcher, Nathan Field, and Philip Massinger. None of these plays, with titles like Machiavel and the Devil, The Arraignment of London, and The She Saint, have survived.Daborne is credited with the authorship of only two extant plays, both of which could be described, in some measure, as swashbucklers:

A Christian Turn'd Turk (1612) is the tragic story of a pirate who converts to Islam after falling in love with a Muslim girl.

The Poor Man's Comfort (first published in 1655) is an extraordinary tragicomedy prefiguring aspects of slick urban Restoration comedy, thrusting its protagonist Gisbert into bizarre and violent confrontations.In the past, academics have argued for Daborne contributions to other plays, such as The Faithful Friends, Rollo Duke of Normandy, Cupid's Revenge, Thierry and Theodoret, and The Honest Man's Fortune; but these attributions are no longer considered likely. (Cyrus Hoy, in his sweeping study of the canon of Fletcher and his collaborators, ruled Daborne out of any participation in the authorship of those works.) Little extra-dramatic literary output by Daborne has survived; he did contribute verse to The Nipping or Snipping of Abuses, a 1614 collection by John Taylor, the Water Poet.The extant records twice refer to Daborne as a "Master of Arts." He most likely took holy orders by 1618, when he published a sermon. Daborne became chancellor of Waterford in Ireland in 1619, and was made prebendary of Lismore in 1620 and dean of Lismore in 1621. He may have enjoyed the patronage of Lord Willoughby in his clerical career. All of the available evidence suggests that Daborne abandoned drama when he entered the Church.

The Atheist's Tragedy

The Atheist's Tragedy, or the Honest Man's Revenge is a Jacobean-era stage play, a tragedy written by Cyril Tourneur and first published in 1611. It is the only dramatic work recognised by the consensus of modern scholarship as the undisputed work of Tourneur, "one of the more shadowy figures of Renaissance drama."

The Revenger's Tragedy

The Revenger's Tragedy is an English-language Jacobean revenge tragedy formerly attributed to Cyril Tourneur but now generally recognised as the work of Thomas Middleton. It was performed in 1606, and published in 1607 by George Eld.

A vivid and often violent portrayal of lust and ambition in an Italian court, the play typifies the satiric tone and cynicism of much Jacobean tragedy. The play fell out of favour at some point before the restoration of the theaters in 1660; however, it experienced a revival in the twentieth century among directors and playgoers who appreciated its affinity with the temper of modern times.

Thomas Middleton

Thomas Middleton (baptised 18 April 1580 – July 1627; also spelled Midleton) was an English Jacobean playwright and poet. Middleton stands with John Fletcher and Ben Jonson among the most successful and prolific of the playwrights at work during the Jacobean period. He was among the few to achieve equal success in comedy and tragedy, and a prolific writer of masques and pageants.


Tourneur is a French surname, literally meaning "lathe operator". Notable people with the surname include:

Cyril Tourneur (1575-1626), English dramatist

Jacques Tourneur (1904-1977), French film director

Maurice Tourneur (1873-1961), French film director and screenwriter

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