Alfred W. (Alfred William) Pollard.

English miracle plays, moralities, and interludes : specimens of the pre-Elizabethan drama online

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373. 7"he eclypse . . . is never one tyme, &r*c. : e. g. an eclipse
not visible at Greenwich until 6.10 a.m. would be visible at
Dublin at 5.35, or a quarter of an hour earlier.

394. How many myle : the circumference of the earth at the
equator is 24,899 miles, its equatorial diameter 7926.6 miles.

402. Then myght I say : i.e. if you were to bring him hither
I should have reason to say, etc.

404. Wolde be sought : cp. note on 1. 330.

417. Synge tyrll on the bery : a fragment of a song ; cp. Ralph
Roister Doister, ii. 3. 36

Heigh derie derie Trill on the berie ;

and Browne's Brit. Past. i. 2. ' Piping on thine oaten reede
upon this little berry (some ycleep a hillock).' [Murray's Dic-

430. Hym : i. e. Studious Desire.

476. Nought in regards : i.e. the feeling, for what pleasure there
may be in it, is nothing to be esteemed, except it be due to me.


517. Such ivyse, me thynketh : in such a manner that it seems
to me my wits grow weary. For the omission of ' that ' cp.

I am so much a fool it would be my disgrace.

Macbeth, iv. 2. 27.

529. Poynt devise : exactly, faultlessly ; cp. As you Like It,
iii. 2. 351 ' Point device in your accoutrements.'


John Skelton was probably a native of Norfolk, and born about
the year 1460. He studied at Cambridge, and has been identified
with a 'Scheklton' who took his M.A. degree in 1484. Lines
on the death of Edward IV. (1483) and the Earl of Northumber-
land (1489) were probably among his earliest writings, and in
1490 Caxton describes him as having translated the Epistles
of Cicero Ad Familiares and Diodorus Siculus. Caxton also
mentions that Skelton had been ' late created poete laureate
in the vnyuersite of oxenforde,' and the same distinction was
conferred on him at Cambridge in 1493. In 1498 Skelton took
Holy Orders, and soon afterwards was appointed tutor to the
future Henry VIII. Before 1504 he had been given the rectory
of Diss in Norfolk. By this time Skelton had engaged him-
self in literary quarrels with Sir Christopher Garnisshe, with
Alexander Barclay, and with William Lily, the grammarian.
As yet, however, he enjoyed the patronage of Wolsey. But
the poet was a born satirist, and shortly after the Cardinal's
appointment as Papal Legate (July, 1518), Skelton drew down
on himself his bitter enmity by a series of scathing satires. Of
these his Colyn Cloute touches Wolsey but slightly, and may
possibly have been written before 1518, but Why come ye
nat to Court and Sfieke, Parrot, are full of bitter invective, and
Skelton was obliged to take sanctuary at Westminster against
the Cardinal's vengeance, and remained there till his death,
June 21, 1529. Of another satirical work, an allegorical poem
entitled the Boiuge of Court, we have no clue to the date.
Skelton also wrote a charming lament of a nun for her pet bird
(Phyllyp Sparrowe), and a coarsely humorous description of an
ale-wife (The Tunnyng of Elynour Rummyng}. T/te Garlande
of Laurell, a poem of sixteen hundred lines in his own honour,


was composed late in life. Of his four dramatic compositions,
the Enter hide of Vertue, the Comedy callyd Achademios, the
Nigramansir (Necromancer) and Magnyfycence, the first and
second have utterly perished, the third was seen by Warton (in
an edition by Wynkyn de Worde, 1504) in the possession of
William Collins, the poet, but has since disappeared, while
Magnyfycence survives in a folio edition, assigned to the press
of William Rastell, with the title : ' Magnyfycence, A goodly
interlude and a mery deuysed and made by mayster Skelton
poet laureate late deceasyd.'

Skelton's Works were admirably edited in two volumes by
the late Alexander Dyce in 1843. From this edition is taken
the text of our extract, while the foregoing brief memoir is
mainly compiled from Mr. Dyce's Introduction.

Mr. Dyce entertained a higher opinion of the merits of
Magnyfycence than the present editor finds it easy to share. It
is distinctly inferior to the earlier plays, such as Everyman, and
except in a few scenes does not tower greatly above Hickscomer,
Lusty Juventus, and the like. The play begins with a con-
troversy between Liberty and Felicity, who both submit them-
selves to Measure (Aristotle's virtue of the ' mean '), and all
three are taken by Magnificence as his counsellors. They are
superseded, however, by the vices Fancy, Counterfeit, Counten-
ance, Crafty Conveyance, and others, under false names. These
new advisers bring Magnificence to ruin, and he comes under the
blows of Adversity, and is visited by Poverty, Despair, and
Mischief. Only the entrance of Good Hope saves him from
suicide, but by the help of Redress, Sad Circumspection, and
Perseverance he is eventually restored to his high estate. Our
extract exhibits the fall of Magnificence and his visitation by
Adversity and Poverty, and certainly shows Skelton at his

1879. Ye sente us a supervysour. In 1. 1808 Magnificence
had appointed Clokyd Colusyon his supervisor, to direct
Largesse and Liberty in the management of his affairs.

1885. Clokyd Colusyon, &>c. A rather distracting feature in
these plays is the habit of the evil characters taking to them-
selves the names of their contrary virtues. Thus Clokyd Co-
lusyon went by the name of Sober Sadnesse, Crafty Conveyance
as Surveyance, Counterfeit Countenance as Good Demeynaunce,
Courtly Abusyon as Lusty Pleasure, and Fansy as Largesse.


1893. The letter: a forged letter by which Fansy had won
the favour of Magnificence.

1909. I make them overthroive : 'overthrowe' is here a

1923. That foloive theyr fansyes in foly to fall. For the use
of 'to' to express a result, cp. Gen. iii. 22, ' Man is become one
of us to know good and evil.'

1938. 7 vysyte to bataylle. In 11. 1927, 1934 and 1951 we
have ' vysyte with} and this, as Dyce suggests, is probably the
true reading here.

1955. To spare the rod. The writers of Morality Plays were
devout adherents of this text, see The Nice Wanton, which
begins by quoting it ; compare also The Disobedient Child, who
dilates on the cruelties of schoolmasters at great length, and
persuades his father not to send him to school, to his own
subsequent misery. But the brutality of the schoolmasters of
old is well established.

1960. A fole to his sonne. For the use of ' to' cp. Mark xv.
23, ' The seven had her to wife,' and Co. 95 ' The devyl to his
mayster he ches.'

1967. 7 am Goddys preposytour : ' preposytour,' i. e. a scholar
appointed by the master to overlook the rest. ' I am pre-
posyter of my boke, Duco classem? Hormanni Vulgaria, ed.
1530. \Dyce 1 s note.]

1973. Of him hathfrounde. I can find no instance of 'frown '
used with the preposition 'of,' nor does such usage seem reason-
able. Dyce queries on, and probably rightly.

1989. Have envy at me. For the use of ' at ' as c introducing
what is at once the exciting cause and the object of active
emotions,' cp. Metr. Horn. 78, ' The fende at him had grete

2006. For, though yott were sometyme a noble estate : i. e.
a person of rank ; cp. L 31 1, ' Syr, yf I have offended your noble

2042. Shertes of Raynes : i.e. shirts of fine linen from Rennes
in France ; cp. the Romance of Eger and Gryme, 1. 305
She gave me 2 shirts of Raines in fere.

2070. In manus titas. The beginning of the text ' In manus
tuas, Domine, commendo spiritum meum ' (Lord, into Thy
hands I commend my spirit), used by repentant criminals at
their execution.




John Heywood, if we may believe Wood's Athena;, was a
native of London, but he is elsewhere stated to have been born
at North Mimms in Hertfordshire, where he certainly had
property and was a neighbour of Sir Thomas More. He studied
at Broadgate Hall, now Pembroke College, Oxford, and later
on won the favour of Henry VIII and his daughter Mary. A
staunch Catholic, despite his clear perception of the abuses
then present in the Church, Heywood was suspected of treason
during the reign of Edward VI, and narrowly escaped hanging.
After the death of Mary he thought it wise to quit England, and
settled at Mechlin, where he is said to have died in 1565.

Of Heywood's non-dramatic works the two chief are his [Six\
Centuries of Pro verbes, first published in 1546, and reprinted
with corrections in 1561, and The Spider and the Flie, an
allegory, the first commenced and last finished of his works,
which contains an allusion to the reign of Queen Mary. Of his
dramas, five have come down to us, possibly all he wrote, and
all of them early works, four having been published in or before
1533, and the fifth, which bears no date, belonging to about the
year 1 540. The Play of Love deals with the contrarieties of
lovers, The Play of the Weather with the troubles of Jupiter in
bringing the elements into accord with the wishes of contending
petitioners. A Play between John the husband, Tyb the wife,
and Sir John the priest, takes a hen-pecked husband as its
subject, while of The Foure PP. : a very mery enterhide of
a Palmer, a Pardoner, a Potecary and a Pedlar, the humour
consists in the rivalry of the first three characters as to which
can tell the greatest lie, and the prize is won by the Palmer,
who declares that in all his travels he has never yet seen
' any one woman out of patience.' Our extracts are taken
from ' A merry Play between the Pardoner and the frere, the
curate and the neybour Pratte. [Colophon :] Imprynted by
Wyllyam Rastell, the v. day of Apryll, the yere of our lorde
M. CCCCC. xxxill.,' and are reprinted from a facsimile made
about the year 1830 from the original folio in the possession
of the Duke of Devonshire. Sufficient is here given to render
superfluous any analysis of Heywood's plot. For his con-
ception of the play he was undoubtedly greatly indebted to


the characters of the Pardoner and the Frere in Chaucer's
Prologue, and these should certainly be read. Further illus-
trations of the ill practices of the Pardoners will be found in
Jusserand's English Wayfaring Life in the Middle Ages.

9. To poll nor to shave : not to bestow the tonsure, for this
ceremony, being part of the rite of ordination, could only be
performed by a bishop, but to shear and shave people of their
money, or, as we should say, to ' fleece ' them.

23. Wylfull poverte. In the decadence of the Mendicant
Orders this vow was evaded by means of an arrangement with
the Pope, in whose name the Friars held property.

36. On the gospell : cp. Mark xvi. 15, and Luke x. 5-12.

79. Saint Leonard: Deacon and Martyr, roasted alive at
Rome, A.D. 258.

97. I com from Rome : cp. Chaucer's Pardoner, whose mail or
bag was ' bretful of pardons com from Rome al hot.'

98. All and some : ' each and all ' ; cp. Chaucer, Anelida and
Arcite, 1. 26

For which the people blisful, al and somme,
So cryden, etc.

104. These holy relyques. Lists of impossible or ridiculous
relics formed a favourite weapon of satirists against the Par-
doners. Chaucer contents himself with mentioning a veil worn
by the B. Virgin, and a piece of the sail of St. Peter's boat ; but
other lists, and Heywood's among them, are full of medieval
light-hearted irreverence.

174. In this place : probably the e-final in 'place' is here to
be sounded, so also in ' shame' in 1. 176.

192. Pope Leo X : Giovanni de' Medici, born 1475, raised to
the papacy March nth, 1513, died December ist, 1521. This
allusion makes it probable, though by no means certain, that the
play was composed during the pontificate of Leo X, i.e. at least
ten years before it was printed.

195. A s departe : for 'as' used to introduce an imperative,
cp. Chaucer, Troilus, 522

' For love of God,' ful pitously he seide,
'As go we scene the paleis of Creseide.'

262. Accurst in the greate sentence. This may refer either to
the Final Judgment or to the sentence of Greater Excommuni-
cation, but probably to the former.

289. Yf they fall ones, &>c. There is no reference here to the
P 2


subject of Article XVI of the Church of England (Of Sin after
Baptism). The Pardoner does not mean that from sins against
knowledge there is no recovery, but that the knowledge remains,
and there would thus be no need for the Friar to repeat his

300. Andlede them thytherby the purse strynges: cp. Chaucer,
Prologue, 225-232 (character of the Friar)

For unto a poure order for to give
Is signe that a man is well i-schrive.
For if he gaf, he dorste make avaunt
He wiste that a man was repentaunt.
For many a man so hard is of his herte,
He may not wepe although him sore smerte.
Therfore in stede of wepyng and preyeres
Men moot give silver to the poure freres.

552. Ragman's rolles : a long, unintelligible story. 'Ragman
was the name of an old medieval game in which characters of
persons, good or bad, were written on a roll, and a string with a
seal appears to have been attached to each character, so that
when it was rolled up the persons engaged in the game might
draw characters by chance.' (Halliwell.) Hence the application
to any document with many signatures and seals, such as the
roll offering their allegiance to Edward I, subscribed by the
Scots nobility in 1296, and always quoted as the Ragman's Roll.
But Ragman or Rageman was also a name for the Devil, and
this seems to have given an almost uniformly opprobrious turn
to the phrase, which is quite in keeping with our text.

557. Mayster parson gave me lycence before the. In the
' Merie Tales of Skelton,' the eighth tells us How the Fryer asked
leave of Skelton to preach at Diss, which Skelton wold not grant.

' There was a fryer the whych dydde come to Skelton to have
licence to preach at Diss. What woulde you preache there ?
sayde skelton : dooe not you thynke that I am sufficiente to
preache there in myne owne cure ? Syr, sayde the freere, I am
the lymyter [ = district-beggar] of Norwych, and once a yeare
one of our place dothe use to preache wyth you, to take the
devocion of the people ; and if I may have your good wil, so bee
it, or els I will come and preach against your will, by the
authoritie of the byshope of Rome, for I have hys bulles to
preache in everye place, and therfore I wyll be there on Sondaye
nexte cummyng.'


Skelton routed this particular friar with a stupid joke about
bulls and calves, but the tale suffices to show that the leave of
the parish priest was merely asked by way of form and could
be dispensed with.

574. Eggetoles. Mr. Hazlitt in his modernized edition quite
rightly renders ' egoteles ' of the text by edgetools. Two lines
of Chaucer give the right spelling :

No flesh ne wiste offence of egge or spere.

Former Age, 1. 19.
But yet it maketh sharpe kervynge toles.

Troiltts, 1. 632.

579. The tone: see CP. (28).

596. Within your lybertye : i.e. within the district in which
Pratt acted as a constable. Liberty = ' a place or district within
which certain privileges or franchises were enjoyed.'
620. Wylt thou be there ? is that what you are after ?
635. More tow on my dystaffe, &*. : more work than I can
get through.


At the end of this play the actors exhort their audience to
Pray for his grace, with hearts that doth not feign,
That long he may rule us without grief or pain.
Beseech ye also that God may save his queen,
Lovely Lady Jane, and the prince that he hath sent them


To augment their joy and the Commons' felicity !
Fare ye well, sweet audience, God grant you all prosperity.

Prince Edward, afterwards Edward VI, was born on Aug. I2th,
1537, and his mother, Jane Seymour, died two days afterwards.
The epilogue, therefore, must have been spoken between the two
events, or at least before the news of the queen's death had
reached the place where the play was acted. This may per-
haps have been at Court, as, though the numerous classical
allusions rather seem to point to a school or university per-
formance, August I3th or I4th would not be a very likely date
for such a festivity.

The only known copy of the original edition of this play is in
the possession of the Duke of Devonshire, by whose permission


a facsimile-reprint was made by Mr. Ashbee, from a copy of
which the present extracts are printed. The title of the original
edition runs :

' A new Enterlude, called | Thersytes. | This Enterlude Folow-
ynge | Dothe Declare howe that the | greatest boesters are not
the greatest | doers.

' The names of the players :

THERSITES, A boster.
MULCIBER, A smyth.
MATER, A mother.
MILES, A knyght.

' [Colophon.] Imprinted at London, by John Tysdale, and are
to be solde at hys shop in the vpper ende of Lumbard streete,
in Alhallowes Churche yarde neare vntoo grace church.'

John Tysdale is not known to have begun to print before
1561, so that the publication of the play must be dated nearly a
quarter of a century later than its first performance. It was
first reprinted in 1820 by Joseph Haslewood, and is included (in
modernized spelling) in Mr. W. C. Hazlitt's edition of Dodsley's
Old English Plays (Vol. i. pp. 391-431).

Our extract gives, with very slight omissions, the whole of the
play, with the exception of the curious episode of the visit of
Telemachus (the son of Ulysses) to the mother of Thersites to
be cured of the worms. The plot is apparently original.

The play opens with three seven-line stanzas riming ababbcc.
A fourth is begun, but after the quatrain is abandoned for
couplets, which form the normal metre of the play, though
occasionally relieved by quatrains and triplets. The number of
accents in a line varies from two to five. Occasionally we get
a line that might be read as a perfect heroic couplet, such as
If Malvem hills should on thy shoulders light,
They shall not hurt thee, nor suppress thy might.
But the succeeding line

If Bevis of Hampton, Colburn and Guy,
is of a much more typical nature.

5. In Homer of my actes ye have red. The story of the
attempt of Thersites to excite the Greeks against their leaders,
and his reproof and chastisement by Ulysses, is given in the
second book of the Iliad, but the Latin Homer is almost
certainly referred to.


20. To play cowch quaile. Strutt in his Book of Sports
mentions a game called ' Kales,' which is our Ninepins.
' Couch kale' may have been a term used in the game = lie down
ninepin. But to couch is a term in falconry (' Like a falcon
towering in the skies coucheth the fowl below.' Rape of
Lucrece, 506), and the reference may be to this.

21. Mulciber : another name for Vulcan.

24. Office : officina, a workshop. Tysdale's edition prints the

Come forth, of thy office I the desire,

which may be forced into meaning ' I desire the help of your

30. Lemnos and Ilva. It was at Lemnos that Vulcan touched
ground when hurled from Olympus, and here was his workshop.
Ilva (Elba) is mentioned on account of its iron mines. Mr.
Hazlitt proposes to read Ithalia (better Aethalia), another name
for Elba, for the sake of the rime to 'galea.'

31. Condatur mihi galea: a helmet may be fashioned for me.
37. A sallet, nowe all the herbes are dead. For the play on

the two meanings of 'sallet,' cp. Jack Cade's speech at the
beginning of scene 10, act. iv, King Henry VI : ' Now am I so
hungry, that if I might have a lease of my life for a thousand
years, I could stay no longer. Wherefore o'er a brick-wall have
I climbed into this garden, to see if I can eat grass, or
pick a sallet another while, which is not amiss to cool a man's
stomach this hot weather. And I think this word " sallet " was
born to do me good : for many a time, but for a sallet, my brain-
pan had been cleft with a brown bill ; and many a time, when I
have been dry and bravely marching, it hath served me instead
of a quart-pot to drink in ; and now the word " sallet " must
serve me to feed on.'

88. Hercules. The references are to the twelfth, first, second,
and fourth labours of Hercules, viz. his bringing Cerberus from
the lower world, his fight with the Nemean lion, with the
Lernean hydra and Erymanthian boar.

90. B ere so vuylde. Bere, i.e. bear, is a misprint or mistake
for bore or boar.

95. Have take: cp. 1. 102, ' have do.'

1 1 6. Bevis of Hampton, Colburne and Guy. Three old
English heroes. Bevis of Southampton performed his exploits
chiefly in Armenia ; Colburn, or Colbrand, was a giant of Danish


descent, slain by Guy of Warwick ; and Guy, his slayer, fought
the Saracens, killed the boar of Windsor, the dun cow of
Dunsmoor, and other ferocious beasts. See Drayton's Polyolbion,
Books II, XII, XIII, and Copland's chapbooks of Bevis of
Hampton and Guy of Warwick.

124. Lyons on Cotsolde. ' Cotswold lions' was a cant term
for sheep. Cp. Heywood's Proverbs

He semeth like a bore, the beaste should seme bolde,
For he is as fierce as a lyon of Cotsolde.

1 30. Gawyn the curtesse, was Arthur's nephew, and was slain
in error by his friend Lancelot. Cp. Carle of Carlile, 1. 28.
Sir Gawaine was steward in Arthur's hall,
Hee was the curteous knight amongst them all.

Percy Folio, vol. ii.

' Kay, the crabbed,' was Arthur's foster-brother, and a mean,
unpleasant person, disliked at Court for his habit of giving nick-

132. Syr Libeus Disconius : Li Biaus Desconneus (The Fair
Unknown), whose name is thus corrupted, was a son of Sir
Gawain. He is the subject of an English Romance printed in
the Percy Folio, vol. ii, of which the French original was dis-
covered in 1855.

136. Syr Launcelot de Lake. Lancelot was the son of Ban,
King of Benwick, but was brought up by Vivienne, the Lady of
the Lake, from whom he derived his epithet.

150. They geve me the wall : i.e. as a mark of respect, the
road next the wall being cleaner. Cp. Scott's Fair Maid of
Perth, ch. ii. ' More than once, when from chance, or perhaps
from an assumption of superior importance, an individual took
the wall of Simon in passing, the Glover's youthful attendant
bristled up with a look of defiance.'

154. The proctoure and his men. The phrase confirms the
indications offered by the numerous classical allusions in Ther-
sites, and points to the play having been performed at Oxford
or Cambridge, where the Proctors and their men are still part
of the University police.

181. Olde purgatory e : 'olde' is here a 'colloquial intensive' ;
cp. Macbeth, ii. 3, * If a man were porter of hell-gate, he should
have old turning the key.'

183. No pardons: i.e. no pardons such as were sold by


200. Typhoeus : a monster with a hundred heads, killed by
Jove's thunderbolt and buried under Etna.

20 1. Enceladtts, like Typhoeus, son of Tartarus and Ge (Hell
and Earth), shared his brother's rebellion and fate.

216. Why 'le pardoners can lye : see preface and notes to the
extract from Hey wood.

233. Let us departe : i.e. separate; cp. 'till death us depart'
in the old form of the Marriage Service.

339. Cacus, a giant, son of Vulcan, dwelt in a cave on Mount
Aventine, and stole some of the oxen which Hercules had taken
from Geryon. For the story of his theft and its punishment see
Virgil, AZneid, viii. 193-279.

246. Good godfather : apparently addressed to some one in
the audience. 'Gaffer' (i.e. 'godfather') was till lately still a rustic
mode of address to any elderly man.

247. A man to be borne in the vale: i.e. of the kind who
would be born in a valley. Dwellers in mountainous districts
have always regarded their neighbours of the valleys as dull-
witted, as the Athenians the Boeotians.

297. Goddes of bat fay le : Bellona.

315. All to-rent: tear in pieces ; cp. Chaucer, Part, of Foules,
432, ' That with these foules I be al to rent.' So also ' to-torn,'
' to-shivered,' etc.

316. Syr Isenbrase : a gallant knight of whom his chronicler
tells us :

He was lyvely large and longe,

With shoulders broade and armes stronge.

He fell into the hands of ' the Sowdan,' and nearly suffered
martyrdom for the faith, but eventually by his prowess gained
not only liberty but a kingdom. A romance of ' Syr Isenbras,'
with a very humorous picture of the knight on the title-page, was
published by Copland.

318. Robin John and Little Hode. Hazlitt is probably right
in thinking the transposition is intentional.

324. Busyris : a king of Egypt, who sacrificed strangers to
Zeus, but was slain by Hercules.

399. / had craked to tymely here: had boasted too oppor-

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