Anthony Munday was born in London, the son of a stationer and prominent Catholic. He was apprenticed to a stationer but left without serving his term to become an actor, although in later life he also worked as a draper. In 1578 he travelled abroad, according to his own account, to learn foreign languages and to experience other cultures but it was more likely that he was sent there as a spy by the court to report on English Catholics living in France and Italy. He managed by deception to secure a place at the English College in Rome for several months where he witnessed the torture and burning at the stake of Richard Atkins, a prominent Protestant, for insulting the Catholic religion and refusing to recant. On his return to England he acted as a witness in the trials of Jesuits in this age of no religious toleration. For these political services in 1584 he was appointed messenger of her majesty’s chamber, an important court position.
Munday was a prolific writer, particularly of plays, many based on translations from European languages and several in collaboration with other major playwrights of the period such as John Webster, Thomas Middleton and Thomas Dekker. It is believed he was the principal writer of the play Sir Thomas More (c1592) and under the patronage of Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, he wrote two plays about Robin Hood in 1597/1598 and The Mirror of Mutability, which he dedicated to the Earl. He gave up writing plays in 1602 to concentrate on writing pageants and from 1605-1616 he became chief pageant writer for the City of London, several of which were on the inauguration of Lord Mayors of London and one of which was London’s Love to Prince Henry on his investiture as Prince of Wales in 1610.
In addition to plays, Munday also wrote prose pamphlets and ballads, among the best known of which are Beauty Bathing, I Serve a Mistress Whiter Than Snow, and Love.
Sir Thomas More: Anthony Munday and Others (The Revels Plays)
Vittorio Gabrieli (Editor), Giorgio Melchiori (Editor)