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A SELECT COLLECTION OF OLD ENGLISH PLAYS, VOL. VI
Originally published by Robert Dodsley in the Year 1744.
FOURTH EDITION, NOW FIRST CHRONOLOGICALLY ARRANGED, REVISED AND
ENLARGED WITH THE NOTES OF ALL THE COMMENTATORS, AND NEW NOTES
W. CAREW HAZLITT.
The Conflict of Conscience
The rare Triumphs of Love and Fortune
The three Ladies of London
The three Ladies and three Lords of London
A Knack to know a Knave
[These five dramas were originally edited for the Roxburghe Club in 1851
by Mr J. Payne Collier, and are now incorporated with the present
Collection precisely as they stand in the Roxburghe Club volume, with Mr
Collier's kind permission, his general introduction included. The only
difference is that the notes, instead of occurring at the end of each
Play, are placed at the foot of the page.]
[MR COLLIER'S GENERAL INTRODUCTION.]
Four of the five ensuing Plays belong to a peculiar class of our early
dramatic performances never yet especially noticed, nor sufficiently
Many specimens have of late years been printed, and reprinted, of
Miracle-plays, of Moral-plays, and of productions written in the most
matured period of our dramatic literature; but little or nothing has
been done to afford information respecting a species of
stage-representation which constitutes a link between Moral-plays on the
one hand, and Tragedy and Comedy on the other, as Tragedy and Comedy
existed at the period when Shakespeare and his contemporaries were
writers for various theatres in the metropolis. This deficiency it has
been our main object to supply.
The four pieces to which we refer are neither plays which enforce a
moral lesson by means of abstract impersonations only, nor are they
dramas which profess to consist merely of scenes drawn from life,
represented by real characters: they may be said to form a class by
themselves, where characters both abstract and individual are employed
in the same performance. The most remarkable drama of this intermediate
kind, and the only one to which particular attention has been directed
in modern times, is called "The Tragical Comedy of Appius and Virginia,"
which originally came out in 1575, and is reprinted in the [former and
present] edition of "Dodsley's Old Plays" from the sole existing
copy. In it an important historical event is commemorated, and the
hero, heroine, and some other principal agents are known characters; but
they are mixed up with allegorical abstractions, and the representatives
of moral qualities, while the Vice of the older stage is introduced, for
the sake of diversifying the representation, and amusing popular
audiences. The plot of this production has no religious application, and
it was not written with any avowed moral purpose. In this respect, as
well as in some other peculiarities, it is unlike the drama which stands
first in the following sheets. Still, the general character is the same
in both: in both we have a mixture of fact and fable, of reality and
allegory, of individuality and abstraction, with the addition, in the
latter case, of the enforcement of a lesson, for the instruction of
those to whom it was addressed.
"The Conflict of Conscience," by Nathaniel Woodes, "Minister in
Norwich," was originally printed in 1581, 4to, and it is reprinted in
our volume from a copy in the possession of the Editor, which has the
advantage of a Prologue. This introductory address is wanting in the
exemplar in the British Museum; but it unquestionably belonged to the
piece, because it also precedes a third copy, in the library of the Duke
of Devonshire. We know not that this drama was ever republished, but the
Registers of the Company of Stationers contain an entry by John
Charlwood, dated 15th June 1587, of "a ballad of Mr Fraunces, an
Italian, a doctor of law, who denied the Lord Jesus," which, as will
be seen presently, probably refers to the same story, and, though called
"a ballad," may possibly have been a reprint of "The Conflict of
Conscience." The names borne by the different characters are all stated
upon the title-page, with such a distribution of the parts as would
enable six actors to represent the piece; and looking merely at this
list, which we have exactly copied, it does not appear in what way the
performance bears even a remote resemblance to tragedy or comedy. The
names read like an enumeration of such personages as were ordinarily
introduced into the Moral-plays of an earlier period--indeed, one of
them seems to be derived from the still more ancient form of
Miracle-plays, frequently represented with the assistance of the clergy.
We allude to Satan, who opens the body of the drama by a long speech (so
long that we can hardly understand how a popular audience endured it)
but does not afterwards take part in the action, excepting through the
agency of such characters as Hypocrisy, Tyranny, and Avarice, who may be
supposed to be his instruments, and under his influence and direction.
Nevertheless, a real and, as he may be considered, an historical,
personage is represented in various scenes of the play, and is, in
truth, its hero, although the author, for reasons assigned in the
Prologue, objected to the insertion of his name in the text. These
reasons, however, did not apply to the title-page, where the apostacy of
Francis Spira, or Spiera, is announced as the main subject, and of whom
an account may be found in Sleidan's "Vingt-neuf Livres d'Histoire"
(liv. xxi. edit. Geneva, 1563). Spiera was an Italian lawyer, who
abandoned the Protestant for the Roman Catholic faith, and in remorse
and despair committed suicide about thirty years anterior to the date
when "The Conflict of Conscience" came from the press. How long this
event had occurred before Nathaniel Woodes wrote his drama upon the
story, we have no means of knowing; but the object of the author
unquestionably was to forward and fix the Reformation, and we may
conclude, perhaps, that an incident of the kind would not be brought
upon the stage until some years after Elizabeth had been seated on the
throne, and until what was called "the new faith" was firmly settled in
the belief, and in the affections, of the great majority of the nation.
We apprehend, therefore, that "The Conflict of Conscience" was not
written until about 1570.
It is the introduction of this real person, under the covert name of
Philologus, that constitutes the chief distinction between the drama we
have reprinted and Moral-plays, which, though still sometimes exhibited,
were falling into desuetude. As most persons are aware, they consisted,
in their first and simplest form, entirely of allegorical or
representative characters, although, as audiences became accustomed to
such abstractions, attempts were from time to time made to give, even to
such imaginary impersonations, individual peculiarities and interests.
Besides the hero of "The Conflict of Conscience," his friends Eusebius
and Theologus may also have been intended for real personages; and
Gisbertus and Paphinitius were, possibly, the true names of the sons of
It will he seen that the drama is divided into six acts; but the last
act consists of no more than a short speech by a Nuntius, who comes
forward, as it should seem, to give a false representation of an
historical fact--so early did a dramatist feel himself warranted in
deviating from received statements, if it better answered his purpose
not to adhere to them. In the instance before us, Nathaniel Woodes
thought fit to alter the catastrophe, for the sake of the moral lesson
he wished to enforce; and he, therefore, represented that Spiera had not
committed suicide, and had, to the great joy of his friends, before
death been re-converted to the religion he had so weakly abandoned. It
will he observed, also, that the divisions of acts and scenes are very
irregularly made towards the conclusion of the performance. From one
passage we learn that no less than thirty weeks are supposed to elapse
between the exit of Philologus, and his death as announced on the
Nearly the whole of the piece is written in the ordinary seven-line
stanza, with here and there the insertion of a couplet, more, no doubt,
for convenience than for variety. The author seems to have very little
consulted the wishes and tastes of a popular assembly; for,
independently of the wearisome introduction, the interlocutions are
sometimes carried to the extreme of tediousness, and the comic scenes
are few, and failures. Perhaps, if any exception can be made, it is in
favour of the interview between Hypocrisy, Tyranny, and Avarice, where
the first, in consistency with his character, succeeds somewhat
humorously in imposing upon both his companions. The long address of
Caconos and his subsequent dialogue with Hypocrisy, Tyranny, and
Avarice, is recommended to notice as an ancient and accurate specimen of
our northern dialect. The long passage, where Caconos describes his
knowledge of his portas by its illuminations, has been imitated by other
authors, and, very likely, was not new in this drama.
What we have to state regarding the text of this play applies strictly
to all the others. We have given, as far as modern typography would
allow, faithful representations of the original copies, with the close
observation of spelling and other peculiarities. If, for the sake of
mere intelligibility, we have rarely added a word or even a letter, we
have always inserted it between brackets; and for the settlement of
difficulties, and the illustration of obscure customs and allusions, we
refer to the notes which succeed each play. We might have subjoined them
at the foot of the page, but we thought they would be considered by many
a needless interruption; while, if we had reserved the whole for the end
of our volume, their bulk, and the numerous paginal references might
have produced confusion and delay. We judged it best, therefore, to
follow each separate production by the separate notes applicable to it;
and the reader will thus have, as far as our knowledge extends, the
ready means of required explanation, which we have endeavoured to
compress into the smallest compass. We ought to add, that the only
liberty we have taken is with the old and ill-regulated punctuation
which it was often necessary to alter, that the sense of the author
might be understood and appreciated.
The production which stands second in this volume may also be looked
upon, in another sense, as intermediate with reference to
stage-performances. It has for title "The rare Triumphs of Love and
Fortune," and was probably designed by its unknown author for a
court-show. The earliest information we possess regarding it establishes
that it was represented before Queen Elizabeth between Christmas 1581
and February 1582. The following is the entry regarding it in the
Accounts of the office of the Revels of that date:--
"A Historic of Love and Fortune, shewed before her Majestie at Wyndesor,
on the sondaie at night next before new yeares daie. Enacted by the
Earle of Derbies servauntes. For which newe provision was made of one
Citty and one Battlement of Canvas, iij Ells of sarcenet, a [bolt] of
canvas, and viij paire of gloves, with sondrey other furniture in this
There exists in the same records a memorandum respecting "The play of
Fortune" ten years earlier, but the terms employed are so general,
that we do not feel warranted in considering it "The rare Triumphs of
Love and Fortune" which we have reprinted: the "History of Love and
Fortune," mentioned in the preceding quotation from the Revels'
Accounts, was no doubt the drama under consideration; and we see that,
besides sarcenet and gloves, the new properties (as they were then, and
still are, called) necessary for the performance were a city and a
battlement to be composed of, or represented on, canvas. We may perhaps
conclude that the piece was not written long before it was acted at
Windsor; but it did not come from the press until 1589, and the sole
copy of it is preserved in the library of the Earl of Ellesmere, who, in
his known spirit of liberal encouragement, long since permitted the
Editor to make a transcript of it. We have met with no entry of its
publication in the Registers of the Stationers' Company.
It will be observed that the foundation of the piece depends upon a
contest for superiority between Venus and Fortune, and that the first
act (for the drama is regularly divided into acts, though the scenes are
not distinguished) is a species of induction to the rest. It is the more
remarkable, because it contains some early specimens of dramatic
blank-verse, although it may be questioned whether the piece was ever
exhibited at a public theatre.
We discover no trace of it in "Henslowe's Diary," nor in any other
authority, printed or manuscript, relating to plays exhibited before
public audiences in the reign of Elizabeth; but it is nevertheless clear
that it was "played before the Queen's most excellent Majesty" (as the
title-page states) by the retainers of the Earl of Derby, a company of
actors at that date engaged in public performances; and it was then,
and afterwards, usual for the Master of the Revels to select dramas for
performance at court, that were favourites with persons who were in the
habit of frequenting the houses generally employed, or purposely
erected, for dramatic representations. If "The rare Triumphs of Love and
Fortune" were ever acted at a public theatre, the several shows in the
first act, of Troilus and Cressida, of Alexander, of Dido, of Pompey and
Caesar, and of Hero and Leander, would of course have been attractive.
It is not necessary to enter at all into the plot, which was composed to
evince alternately the power of Venus and of Fortune in influencing the
lives of a pair of faithful lovers: the man, with some singularity,
being called Hermione, and the woman Fidelia. They are successively
placed by the two goddesses in situations of distress and difficulty,
from which they are ultimately released; and in the end Venus and
Fortune are reconciled, and join in promoting the happiness of the
couple they had exposed to such trials. The serious business is relieved
by some attempts at comedy by a clownish servant, called Lentulo, and in
the third act a song is introduced for greater variety, which, as was
not unusual at a later period of our stage history, seems to have been
left to the choice of the performer. The prayer for the Queen, at the
conclusion of the drama, put into the mouth of Fortune, was a relic of a
more ancient practice, and perhaps affords further proof, if it were
wanted, that it was represented before Elizabeth. It appears not
unlikely that, if "The rare Triumphs of Love and Fortune" had been
chosen by the Master of the Revels for representation at court on
account of its popularity, the fact of its having been acted by a
particular company at a known theatre would have been stated upon the
title-page, as a testimony to its merits, and as an incentive to its
We need not hesitate in stating that the third and fourth dramas in the
present volume were "publicly played," and the title-page of one of them
states the fact. Moreover, they were the authorship of a most
distinguished individual, perhaps only second to Tarlton as an actor,
and decidedly his superior as an author. Nothing that has come down to
us leads us to suppose, that Tarlton had much beyond his lavish
extemporal wit and broad drollery to recommend him; for although various
productions were attributed to him, such as are extant do not warrant an
opinion that, as a writer, he had much originality. The reverse is
the case with Robert Wilson, whose initials are on the title-pages of
"The three Ladies of London," and of "The three Lords and three Ladies
of London," and who, besides his well-attested talents as a public
performer, was indisputably a dramatist of great ability. He, too, was
famous for his extreme readiness of reply, when suddenly called upon;
but we cannot help suspecting that some confusion has arisen between the
Robert Wilson, the writer of the two dramas above-named (as well as of
"The Cobbler's Prophecy," 1594, a production of a similar character),
and the Robert Wilson who is mentioned in "Henslowe's Diary," and whom
Meres, as late as 1598, calls "our worthy Wilson," adding that he was
"for learning and extemporal wit, without compare or compeer." The
younger Robert Wilson was, perhaps, the son of the elder; but without
here entering into the evidence on the point (with which we were not
formerly so well-acquainted), we may state our persuasion generally,
that the Robert Wilson who was appointed one of the leaders of one of
Queen Elizabeth's two companies of players in 1583, was not the same
Robert Wilson who was a joint-author, with Munday, Drayton, and Hathway,
in the drama on the story of Sir John Oldcastle, imputed to Shakespeare
on the authority of some copies printed in 1600.
There are two old editions of "The three Ladies of London," one of them
printed in 1584, the text of which we have followed, and the other in
1592, the various readings of which we have noted. Both of them have the
initials R.W. on the title-page as those of the writer; but some doubt
has been thrown upon the question of authorship, because, at the end of
the piece, in both impressions, we read "Finis. Paul Bucke." The fact,
however, no doubt is that Paul Bucke who, it has been recently
ascertained, was an actor, subscribed the transcript, which about
1584 he had procured for Roger Ward the printer, in order to
authenticate it: hence the connection of his name with the production,
in the performance of which he may also have had a share, and he may
thus have had access to the prompter's book. The Paul Bucke, who in 1578
was the author of a "prayer for Sir Humphrey Gilbert," was in all
probability the same individual.
The second edition of 1592 would seem, from the many variations, to have
been printed from a different manuscript to that used for the edition of
1584, and in some respects it was an improvement. Still, as we have
stated, the name of Paul Bucke is at the termination of both; and it is
a somewhat remarkable indication of the care displayed in bringing out
the second edition, that whereas in the first edition an event is spoken
of as having occurred in the reign of Queen Mary, "not much more than
twenty-six years" before, in the second edition printed seven or eight
years afterwards, the figures 26 are altered to 33. Such proofs of
attention to comparative trifles were unusual in the reprints of old
plays; and it may be doubted whether in this instance it would have been
afforded, had not "The three Ladies of London" continued such a
favourite with the town as to occasion its frequent repetition at the
public theatre. A piece of evidence to show the popularity of the drama
long after its original publication is to be found in Edward Guilpin's
"Skialetheia, or a Shadowe of Truth," 8vo, 1598, where it is thus
distinctly alluded to--
"The world's so bad that vertue's over-awde,
And forst, poore soule, to become vices bawde;
Like the old morall of the comedie,
Where Conscience favours Lucar's harlotry."
These lines are contained in the first satire of this very curious and
interesting work, and the readers of the drama will at once be aware of
"The three Ladies of London" recommended itself to our notice for the
present volume, on account of the peculiarity of its construction:
Guilpin, we see, speaks of it as "the old moral of the comedy," and
this, in truth, is the exact description of it. It is neither entirely a
"moral," nor entirely a "comedy," but a mixture of both, differing from
the drama that stands first in our volume, because the real characters
introduced are not known or historical personages. Most of the _dramatis
personae_ are indisputably allegorical or representative, the
embodiments of certain virtues and vices; but individuals are also
employed, such as Gerontus a Jew, and Mercadore a merchant, besides a
Judge who is called upon to determine a dispute between them. This
portion of the piece may be said to belong to a more advanced period of
our stage, and distinguishes it, as far as we are aware, from anything
of the kind known anterior to the date when the production first came
from the press. The name Gerontus can hardly fail to bring to mind that
of the hero of the old ballad of "Gernutus, the Jew of Venice;" but
there is a remarkable difference between the two persons: in the play
before us Gerontus is represented in a very favourable light, as an
upright Jew, only anxious to obtain his own property by fair means,
while his antagonist, a Christian merchant, endeavours to defeat the
claim by fraud, perjury, and apostacy. So far the drama of "The three
Ladies of London" contradicts the position, founded mainly upon
Marlowe's Barabas and Shakespeare's Shylock, that our early
dramatists eagerly availed themselves of popular prejudices against
the conscientious adherents to the old dispensation.
The construction of "The three Ladies of London" in other respects will
speak for itself, but we may be allowed to give Wilson credit for the
acuteness and political subtlety he evinces in several of his scenes;
for the severity of many of his touches of satire; for his amusing
illustrations of manners; for his exposure of the tricks of foreign
merchants, and for the humour and drollery which he has thrown into his
principal comic personage. The name of this character is Simplicity, who
is the fool or clown of the performance, and who, in conformity with the
practice, not only of our earlier but sometimes of our later stage,
makes several amusing appeals to the audience. We may pretty safely
conclude, although we are without any hint of the kind, that this
arduous part was sustained by the author himself.
The original copy of this production, to which we have resorted, is
among the Garrick Plays: we recollect to have met with no other copy of
the edition of the year 1584; but at least three of the later impression
have come under our notice: one is in the library of the Duke of
Devonshire, another in that of the Earl of Ellesmere, and a third at
Oxford. Of all these we have more or less availed ourselves in
The fourth play in the ensuing pages, "The three Lords and three Ladies
of London," is connected in subject with the third, and, as stated
already, is by the same author, who placed his initials, R.W., upon the
title-page. The reprint is made from a copy in the possession of the
Editor, compared with two others of the same date which in no respect
vary: it may be right to mention this fact, because, as all who have
been in the habit of examining the productions of our early stage are
aware, important alterations and corrections were sometimes introduced
while the sheets were going through the press. Our title-page, including
the wood-cut, may be considered a facsimile. It will be seen that it was
printed in 1590, and it was probably written by Robert Wilson about two
years before, as a sort of second part to his "Three Ladies of London,"
which had met with such decided success. That success was perhaps in
some degree revived by the frequent performance of "The three Lords and
three Ladies of London," and the consequence seems to have been the
publication of the new edition of the former in 1592.
The author called his new effort "The pleasant and stately Moral of the
three Lords and three Ladies of London," and it bears, in all its
essential features, a strong resemblance to the species of drama known
as a Moral or Moral-play. This resemblance is even more close and
striking than that of "The three Ladies of London;" for such important
characters as Gerontus and Mercadore are wanting, and as far as the
_dramatis personae_ are concerned, there is little to take it out of the
class of earlier dramatic representations, but the characters of Nemo
and the Constable, the latter being so unimportant that Wilson did not
include him in the list of "the Actor's names" which immediately follows
the title. Had the piece, however, made a still more remote approach to
comedy, and had it possessed fewer of the mixed features belonging to
its predecessor, we should unhesitatingly have reprinted it as a
Towards the conclusion of the drama, as well indeed as in the
introductory stanzas, the allusions to the Armada and to the empty
vaunts of the Spaniards are so distinct and obvious, that we cannot
place the composition of it earlier than 1588; but it must have remained
in manuscript for about two years, since it was not published until
after July 1590, the following entry in the Stationers' Registers
bearing date the 31st of that month:--
"Richard Jones. Entered for his copie, under thandes of doctor Wood
and the wardens, a comedie of the plesant and statelie morrall of the
Three lordes of London."
Richard Jones, as will be seen from the imprint, was the publisher of
the work; but the clerk who made the memorandum in the books blundered
respecting the name, and, besides terming it "a comedy" as well as "a
pleasant and stately moral," he omitted that portion of the title which
immediately connects it with "The three Ladies of London." That
connection is avowed in the Prologue (usually called a "Preface") which
was spoken by "a Lady, very richly attired, representing London;" and it
is evident that the author had every reason for making the fact
prominent, inasmuch as it was his interest to prove the relationship
between his new offspring and a drama that had for some years been
established in public approbation. London, speaking in the poet's name,
"My former fruits were lovely Ladies three;
Now of three Lords to talk is London's glee:
Whose deeds I wish may to your liking frame,
For London bids you welcome to the same."
Although, in its plot and general character, "The three Lords and three
Ladies of London" is not so far advanced towards genuine comedy, the
representation of life and manners, as its first part, "The three Ladies
of London," in style and composition it makes a much nearer approach to
what soon afterwards became the language of the stage, such as we find
it in the works of Shakespeare, and of some of his most gifted
contemporaries. Wilson, doubtless, saw the necessity, in 1588, of
adopting some of those improvements of versification in which Marlowe
had led the way; he therefore laid aside (excepting in a few comic
scenes) his heavy, lumbering, and monotonous fourteen-syllable lines
(sometimes carried to a greater length for the sake of variety) and not
only usually employed ten-syllable lines, but introduced speeches of
blank verse. His drama opens with this then uncommon form, and he avails
himself of it afterwards, interspersing also prose in such situations as
did not seem to require measured speech. This of itself was at that time
a bold undertaking; for Marlowe had only just before 1588, when "The
three Lords and three Ladies of London" must have been written,
commenced weaning audiences at our public theatres from what, in the
Prologue to his "Tamburlaine the Great," he ridicules as the "jigging
veins of rhiming motherwits." Robert Wilson is, on this account, to
be regarded with singular respect, and his works to be read with
peculiar interest. It is not easy to settle the question of precedency,
but, as far as our knowledge at present extends, he seems entitled to be
considered the second writer of blank verse for dramas intended for
popular audiences. This is a point of view in which his productions have
never yet been contemplated, and it renders the play we have reprinted,
illustrating as it does so important and striking a change, especially
worthy of notice and republication.
Something has been already said respecting the characters who figure in
this representation, and we may add that although Simplicity, who here
performs even a more prominent and important part than in "The three
Ladies of London," must be reckoned the impersonation of a quality, and
the representative of a class, so much individuality is given to him,
particularly in his capacity of a ballad-singer, that it is impossible
not to take a strong interest in all that he says, and in the incidents
in which he is engaged. Richard Tarlton, the famous comedian, died on 3d
Sept. 1588, rather more than a month after the entry of "The three Lords
and three Ladies of London" at Stationers' Hall; and in this play it
will be seen that Simplicity produces his "picture" before the audience,
and gives a minute account of his habits, appearance, and employments.
It is clear, therefore, as Tarlton is spoken of as dead, that this part
of the drama must have been written, and introduced, subsequent to the
memorandum in the Stationers' Registers. This of itself is a curious
circumstance, and it serves to show with what promptitude our old
dramatists availed themselves of any temporary matter that could give
attraction and popularity to their plays.
As we have supposed Wilson himself to have acted Simplicity in "The
three Ladies of London," we may perhaps conclude that he sustained the
same character in "The three Lords and three Ladies of London." The part
was an excellent one for the display of comic humour and clownish
drollery, and the enumeration of the old ballads he sings and sells
needs no illustration here, where, in fact, it would be out of place.
The familiar manner in which Simplicity at times addresses the audience,
for the sake of raising a laugh, is even more unlicensed in this play
than in its predecessor, and we never before saw the words "To the
audience" introduced, by way of stage-direction to the performer, that
he might appeal to the spectators.
The copy of this play most employed in the ensuing pages is the
property of the Editor, but he has had an opportunity of comparing
it with another in the library of the Duke of Devonshire.
The connection between the productions of our ancient and more modern
stage, such as it existed at the close of the reign of Elizabeth, is
even more slightly evidenced by the drama which conies last in our
volume, the main features of which bear only a distant resemblance to
our drama, while it was still under the trammels of allegorical
impersonation. Nevertheless, the likeness is to be traced without
difficulty; and when we find such a character as Honesty most
prominently engaged from the beginning to the end of the performance (to
say nothing of the introduction of the representative of the principle
of evil in two passages), the mind is carried back to a period of our
theatrical history when such characters were alone employed on our
stage. Honesty has no necessary connection with the plot, nor with its
development, beyond the exposure by his means of fraud, flattery, and
hypocrisy: he bears no relation, however distant, to any of the parties
engaged in the performance, and seems to have been designed by the
unknown author as a sort of running commentator and bitter satirist upon
the vices and follies of mankind. On the other hand, the chief
characters among the _dramatis personae_ are real and historical, and
King Edgar and Bishop Dunstan, with Ethenwald and Alfrida, may be said
to figure prominently throughout. The Knight, the Squire, and the
Farmer, who make their appearance further on, are clearly embodiments of
the several classes of society to which they appertain. Thus, although
the "Knack to know a Knave" makes a nearer approach to comedy than any
of the four dramas which precede it, it still by no means entirely
discards the use of personages of a description which, many years
earlier, engrossed our stage. Characters and scenes of life and manners
are blended with others supported only by conventional impersonations,
in which the dialogue is not intended to advance the plot, but merely to
enforce a lesson of morality, probity, or discretion.
It is not always easy to guess at the full meaning of the author in
various scenes he introduces, but some of them were obviously inserted
for the purpose of exciting the laughter of the audience, and of giving
an opportunity of display to a favourite low comedian. One of the actors
is expressly mentioned on the title-page, where "Kemp's applauded
merriments of the men of Gotham, in receiving the King into Gotham" are
made prominent; but unless much were left to the extemporaneous
invention of the performer, or unless much has been omitted in the
printed copy, which was inserted by the author in his manuscript, it is
difficult at this time of day to discover in what the wit, if not the
drollery, consisted. As this portion of the play has come down to us, it
seems to be composed of mere ignorant and blundering buffoonery,
unworthy of a comedian, who undoubtedly afterwards sustained important
humorous characters in the plays of Shakespeare. Who was the Bailiff of
Hexham, and why he was brought forward on his deathbed near the opening
of the drama, we are unable to explain, unless the author's object were
that the spectators, when the Bailiff was ultimately carried away by the
devil, should have ocular proof of the condign punishment which followed
his principles as explained to his sons, and his practices as avowed by
We can establish, almost to a day, when the "Knack to know a Knave" was
first represented, for we find it thus entered in "Henslowe's Diary:" it
is in an account relating to the performances of the company acting
under the name of Lord Strange, at the Rose Theatre, from 19th Feb.
1591-2 to the 22d June 1592--
R[eceive]d at Jeronimo, the 9 of June 1592 xxviij's.
Rd at a Knack to know a Knave, 1592, 1 day iij'li. xij's.
Rd at Harry the VI, the 12 June 1592 xxxiij's.
Here, therefore, we find (reforming the uncouth spelling of the old
manager) that the play under consideration was acted, for the first
day, between the 9th and 12th June 1592, and that Henslowe's share
of the receipts amounted to 3l. 12s. 0d. It was acted again on 15th and
22d June, when the account ends. William Kemp was at this time a member
of the company in the prosperity of which Henslowe was interested, and
had not yet joined the association acting under the sanction of the Lord
Chamberlain, to which, in 1592, Shakespeare had for some years belonged.
"Ed. Allen and his Company," spoken of on the title-page to the printed
copy of "A Knack to know a Knave" as those by whom it had been "played,"
were the actors of Lord Strange.
With regard to the date when the "Knack to know a Knave" was printed,
we are in possession of pretty distinct evidence that it came out in the
early part of 1594, the year stated on the title-page. The imprint also
informs us that Richard Jones, then carrying on business at the Rose and
Crown near Holborn Bridge, was the typographer; and we meet with the
following entry at Stationers' Hall, preparatory to the publication,
with his name prefixed to it.
"vij'o Januarij [1593-4]
"Rich. Jones. Entred for his Copie &c. A comedie entitled a Knack to
knowe a Knaue, newlye sett fourth, as it hath sundrye tymes ben plaid
by Ned Allen and his Companie, with Kemps applauded Merymentes of the
men of Goteham."
The sum paid to the clerk who kept the register was, as usual, sixpence;
and from the terms above employed, which nearly follow those of the
title-page, we may feel pretty sure that the copy taken to Stationers'
Hall was a printed one, and not, as seems to have been generally the
case, a manuscript.
There is no doubt that the drama was extremely popular both on and off
the stage; and although it is now one of the scarcest of our old plays,
it must have been a profitable speculation to the publisher. In order
that the various parties interested might more effectually avail
themselves of the favour with which it had been received, a sort of
counterpart was written to it, and acted for the first time on 22d
October 1594, by the players of the Queen and of the Earl of Sussex
(then performing together), under the title of "A Knack to know an
Honest Man." This drama, though inferior in every respect, appears by
"Henslowe's Diary" (for he was also interested in the receipts of these
united associations) to have had a long and advantageous run. It was
not published until 1596, and it was previously entered on the
Stationers' books by Cuthbert Burby. In the same year was printed by
Valentine Simmes a work, the title of which was evidently borrowed from
the proverbial expression "a knack to knowe a knave," which possibly had
its origin in the great popularity of the drama we have reprinted. This
work was by M.B., and was called "The Triall of true Friendship; or a
perfect mirror to discerne a trustie friend from a flattering
Parasite--Otherwise a _Knack to know a Knave_ from an honest man." One
principal purpose of the play under consideration was to expose the
flattery of the parasite Perin, who endeavoured to impose upon King
Edgar, but was detected by Honesty. It seems not unlikely that Honesty
was the character sustained by Edward Alleyn, but we have no knowledge
of the distribution of any of the parts, beyond the fact that Kemp
played a chief blunderer in the comic scene; whether that was the
Miller, the Cobbler, or the Smith may, perhaps, admit of dispute.
The story of the serious portion of the play was doubtless derived from
an old ballad, inserted by Thomas Deloney in his "Garland of Good Will"
(probably written by him), where it is entitled "A Song of King Edgar,
showing how he was deceived of his Love." As it is reprinted in all the
editions of "Evans's Old Ballads," and has been the subject of two plays
in comparatively modern times, it is not necessary here to give any
detail of the plot, which also, in several incidents, strongly resembles
parts of Robert Greene's "Friar Bacon and Friar Bongay," which, like the
"Knack to know a Knave," was printed in 1594.
The Editor was, some years ago, permitted to make a transcript of this
rare play from a copy in the library of his Grace the Duke of
Devonshire, that in the British Museum being very defective in several
places, and the missing pages having been supplied by very delusive
manuscript. The Rev. Alexander Dyce also possesses a perfect exemplar,
which was extremely useful for the purpose of collation.
THE CONFLICT OF CONSCIENCE
An excellent new Commedie, Intituled: The Conflict of Conscience.
Contayninge, A most lamentable example of the dolefull desperation of a
miserable world-linge termed by the name of Philologus, _who_ forsooke
the trueth of Gods Gospel, for feare of the losse of lyfe & worldly
goods. Compiled, by Nathaniell Woodes, Minister, in Norwich.
The Actors names, deuided into six partes, most conuenient for such as
be disposed, either to shew this Comedie in priuate houses, or
MATHETES, | _For one_.
SPIRIT, | _For one_.
SUGGESTION, | _For one_.
HYPOCRISY, | _For one_.
CARDINAL, | _For one_.
PHILOLOGUS, _For one_.
At London Printed by Richarde Bradocke dwellinge in Aldermanburie,
a little aboue the Conduict. Anno. 1581. 4�. Black-letter.
When whirling winds which blow with blust'ring blast,
Shall cease their course, and not the air move,
But still unstirred it doth stand, it chanceth at the last
To be infect, the truth hereof even day by day we prove;
For deep within the caves of earth of force it doth behove,
Sith that no winds do come thereto, the air out to beat,
By standing still the closed air doth breed infections great.
The stream or flood, which runneth up and down,
Is far more sweet than is the standing brook:
If long unworn you leave a cloak or gown,
Moths will it mar, unless you thereto look:
Again, if that upon a shelf you place or set a book,
And suffer it there still to stand, the worms will soon it eat:
A knife likewise, in sheath laid up, the rust will mar and fret.
The good road-horse, if still at rack he stand,
To resty jade will soon transformed be:
If long untill'd you leave a fertile land,
From streck and weed no place will be left free.
By these examples and such like approve then well may we,
That idleness more evils doth bring into the mind of man,
Than labour great in longer time again expel out can.
Which thing our Author marking well, when wearied was his mind
From reading grave and ancient works, yet loth his time to lose,
Bethought himself, to ease his heart, some recreance to find,
And as he mused in his mind, immediately arose
A strange example done of late, which might, as he suppose,
Stir up their minds to godliness, which should it see or hear,
And therefore humbly doth you pray to give attentive ear.
The argument or ground, whereon our Author chiefly stayed,
Is (sure) a history strange and true, to many men well known,
Of one through love of worldly wealth and fear of death dismay'd,
Because he would his life and goods have kept still as his own,
From state of grace wherein he stood was almost overthrown;
So that he had no power at all in heart firm faith to have,
Till at the last God chang'd his mind his mercies for to crave.
And here our Author thought it meet the true name to omit,
And at this time imagine him PHILOLOGUS to be;
First, for because a Comedy will hardly him permit
The vices of one private man to touch particularly:
Again, now shall it stir them more, who shall it hear or see;
For if this worldling had been nam'd, we would straight deem in mind,
That all by him then spoken were, ourselves we would not find.
But sith PHILOLOGUS is nought else but one that loves to talk,
And common of the word of God, but hath no further care,
According as it teacheth them in God's fear for to walk,
If that we practise this indeed, PHILOLOGI we are,
And so by his deserved fault we may in time beware:
Now if, as Author first it meant, you hear it with this gain,
In good behalf he will esteem that he bestowed his pain.
And for because we see by proof, that men do soon forget
Those things for which to call them by no name at all they know,
Our Author, for to help short wits, did think it very meet
Some name for this his Comedy in preface for to show.
Now names to natures must agree, as every man do know,
A fitter name he could in mind no where excogitate,
Than THE CONFLICT OF CONSCIENCE the same to nominate.
A cruel Conflict certainly, where Conscience takes the foil,
And is constrained by the flesh to yield to deadly sin,
Whereby the grace and love of God from him his sin doeth spoil,
Then (wretch accurs'd) small power hath repentance to begin.
This history here example shows of one fast wrapp'd therein,
As in discourse before your eyes shall plainly proved be;
Yet (at the last) God him restor'd, even of his mercy free.
And though the history of itself be too-too dolorous,
And would constrain a man with tears of blood his cheeks to wet,
Yet to refresh the minds of them that be the auditors,
Our Author intermixed hath, in places fit and meet,
Some honest mirth, yet always 'ware decorum to exceed.
But list, I hear the players prest in presence forth to come:
I therefore cease, and take my leave: my message I have done.
THE CONFLICT OF CONSCIENCE.
ACT I., SCENE 1.
High time it is for me to stir about,
And do my best my kingdom to maintain,
For why I see of enemies a rout,
Which all my laws and statutes do disdain;
Against my state do fight and strive amain:
Whom in time if I do not dissipate,
I shall repent it, when it is too late.
My mortal foe, the carpenter's poor son,
Against my children--the Pharisees I mean--
Upbraiding them, did use this comparison,
As in the story of his life may be seen.
There was a man which had a vineyard green,
Who, letting it to husbandmen unkind,
Instead of fruit unthankfulness did find.
So that his servants firstly they did beat.
His son likewise they afterward did kill:
And hereupon that man, in fury great,
Did soldiers send these husbandmen to spill;
Their town to burn he did them also will:
But out alas, alas, for woe I cry,
To use the same far juster cause have I.
For where the kingdom of this world is mine,
And his on whom I will the same bestow,
As prince hereof I did myself assign:
My darling dear, whose faithful love I know,
Shall never fail from me, but daily flow.
But who that is, perhaps some man may doubt;
I will therefore in brief portract and paint him out.
The mortal man by nature's rule is bound
That child to favour more than all the rest,
Which to himself in face is likest found;
So that he shall with all his goods be blest:
Even so do I esteem and like him best,
Which doth most near my dealings imitate,
And doth pursue God's laws with deadly hate.
As therefore I, when once in angel's state
I was, did think myself with God as mate to be,
So doth my son himself now elevate
Above man's nature in rule and dignity.
So that _in terris Deus sum_, saith he:
In earth I am a God, with sins for to dispense,
And for rewards I will forgive each manner of offence.
I said to Eve: tush, tush, thou shalt not die,
But rather shalt as God know everything;
My son likewise, to maintain idolatry,
Saith: tush, what hurt can carved idols bring?
Despise this law of God, the heavenly King,
And set them in the church for men thereon to look:
An idol doth much good: it is a layman's book.
Nembroth, that tyrant, fearing God's hand,
By me was persuaded to build up high Babel,
Whereby he presumed God's wrath to withstand:
So hath my boy devised very well
Many pretty toys to keep men's soul from hell,
Live they never so evil here and wickedly,
As masses, trentals, pardons, and scala coeli.
I egged on Pharaoh, of Egypt the king,
The Israelites to kill, so soon as they were born:
My darling likewise doth the selfsame thing,
And therefore causes kings and princes to be sworn,
That with might and main they shall keep up his horn,
And shall destroy with fire, axe, and sword,
Such as against him shall speak but one word.
And even as I was somewhat too slow,
So that notwithstanding the Israelites did augment;
So (for lack of murthering) God's people do grow,
And daily increase at this time present;
Which my son shall feel incontinent.
Yet another practice, this evil to withstand,
He learned of me, which now he takes in hand.
For when as Moses I might not destroy,
Because that he was of the Lord appointed
To bring the people from thraldom to joy,
I did not cease, whilst I had invented,
Another means to have him prevented;
By accompting himself the son of Pharaoh,
To make him loth Egypt to forego.
The same advice I also attempted
Against the Son of God, when he was incarnate;
Hoping thereby to have him relented,
And for promotion-sake himself to prostrate
Before my feet, when I did demonstrate
The whole world unto him and all the glory,
As it is recorded in Matthew's history.
So hath the Pope, who is my darling dear,
My eldest boy, in whom I do delight,
Lest he should fall, which thing he greatly fear,
Out of his seat of honour, pomp and might,
Hath got to him, on his behalf to fight,
Two champions stout, of which the one is Avarice,
The other is called Tyrannical Practice.
For, as I said, although I claim by right
The kingdom of this earthly world so round,
And in my stead to rule with force and might
I have assigned the Pope, whose match I nowhere found,
His heart with love to me so much abound;
Yet divers men of late, of malice most unkind,
Do study, to displace my son, some wayward means to find.
Wherefore I marvel much what cause of let there is,
That hitherto they have not their office put in ure.
I will go see: for why I fear that somewhat is amiss;
If not, to range abroad the world I will them straight procure:
But needs they must have one to help, men's hearts for to allure
Unto their train: who that should be, I cannot yet espy.
No meeter match I can find out than is Hypocrisy;
Who can full well in time and place dissemble either part.
No man shall easily perceive with which side he doth bear;
But when once favour he hath got, and credit in man's heart,
He will not slack in mine affairs: I do him nothing fear.
But time doth run too fast away for me to tarry here;
For none will be enamoured of my shape, I do know,
I will therefore mine imps send out from hell their shapes to show.
ACT I, SCENE 2.
My mind doth thirst, dear friend Philologus,
Of former talk to make a final end:
And where before we 'gan for to discuss
The cause why God doth such afflictions send
Into his Church, you would some more time spend
In the same cause, that thereby you might learn
Betwixt the wrath and love of God a right for to discern.
With right good-will to your request herein I do consent,
As well because, as I perceive, you take therein delight,
As also for because it is most chiefly pertinent
Unto mine office to instruct and teach each Christian wight
True godliness, and show to them the path that leadeth right
Unto God's kingdom, where we shall inherit our salvation,
Given unto us from God by Christ our true propitiation.
But that a better-ordered course herein we may observe,
And may directly to the first apply that which ensue,
To speak that hath been said before, I will a time reserve,
And so proceed from whence we left by course and order due
Unto the end. At first, therefore, you did lament and rue
The misery of these our days, and great calamity,
Which those sustain who dare gainsay the Romish hypocrisy.
I have just cause, as hath each Christian heart,
To wail and weep, to shed out tears of blood,
When as I call to mind the torments and the smart,
Which those have borne, who honest be and good,
For nought else, but because their errors they withstood:
Yet joyed I much to see how patiently
They bore the cross of Christ with constancy.
So many of us as into one body be
Incorporate, whereof Christ is the lively head,
As members of our bodies which we see
With joints of love together be conjoined,
And must needs suffer, unless that they be dead,
Some part of grief in mind, which other feel
In body, though not so much by a great deal.
Wherefore by this it is most apparent,
That those two into one body are not united,
Of the which the one doth suffer, the other doth torment,
And in the wounds of his brother is delighted:
Now which is Christ's body may easily be decided;
For the lamb is devoured of the wolf alway,
Not the wolf of the lamb, as Chrysostom doth say.
Again, of unrighteous Cain murthered was Abel,
By whom the Church of God was figured:
Isaac likewise was persecuted of Ishmael,
As in the Book of Genesis is mentioned:
Israel of Pharaoh was also terrified:
David the saint was afflicted by his son,
And put from his kingdom--I mean by Absalom.
Elias the Thisbite, for fear of Jezebel
Did fly to Horeb, and hid him in a cave:
Michas the prophet, as the story doth tell,
Did hardly his life from Baal's priests save:
Jeremy of that sauce tasted have:
So did Esay, Daniel, and the children three,
And thousands more, which in stories we may see.
In the New Testament we may also read,
That our Saviour Christ, even in his infancy,
Of Herod the king might stand in great dread,
Who sought to destroy him, such was his insolency:
Afterward of the Pharisees he did with constancy
Suffer shameful death: his apostles also
For testimony of the truth did their crosses undergo.
James, under Herod, was headed with the sword:
The rest of the apostles did suffer much turmoil.
Good Paul was murthered by Nero his word:
Domitian devised a barrel full of oil,
The body of John the Evangelist to boil,
The Pope at this instant sundry torments procure,
For such as by God's holy word will endure.
By these former stories two things we may learn
And profitably record in our remembrance:
The first is God's Church from the devil's to discern:
The second to mark what manifest resistance
The truth of God hath, and what encumbrance
It bringeth upon them that will it profess;
Wherefore they must arm themselves to suffer distress.
It is no new thing, I do now perceive,
That Christ's Church do suffer tribulation;
But that the same cross I might better receive,
I request you to show me for my consolation,
What is the cause, by your estimation,
That God doth suffer his people to be in thrall,
Yet help them, so soon as they to him call?
The chiefest thing which might us cause or move,
With constant minds Christ's cross for to sustain,
Is to conceive of heaven a faithful love;
Whereto we may not come, as Paul doth prove it plain,
Unless with Christ we suffer, that with him we may reign:
Again, sith that it is our heavenly Father's will
By worldly woes our carnal lusts to kill.
Moreover, we do use to loathe that thing we alway have,
And do delight the more in that which mostly we do want:
Affliction urgeth us also more earnestly to crave,
And when we once relieved be, true faith in us it plant,
So that to call in each distress on God we will not faint:
For trouble brings forth patience, from patience doth ensue
Experience, from experience hope, of health the anchor true.
Again, ofttimes God doth provide affliction for our gain,
As Job, who after loss of goods had twice so much therefor.
Sometime affliction is a means to honour to attain,
As you may see, if Joseph's life you set your eyes before:
Continually it doth us warn from sinning any more,
When as we see the judgments just which God, our heavenly King,
Upon offenders here in earth for their offences bring.
Sometime God doth it us to prove, if constant we will be;
As he did unto Abraham: sometime his whole intent
Is to declare His heavenly might; as in John we may see,
When the disciples did ask Christ why God the blindness sent
Unto that man that was born blind? to whom incontinent
Christ said: Neither for parents' sins, nor for his own offence,
Was he born blind, but that God might show his magnificence.
This is the sum of all your talk, if that I guess aright,
That God doth punish his elect to keep their faith in ure,
Or lest that, if continual ease and rest enjoy they might,
God to forget through haughtiness frail nature should procure;
Or else by feeling punishment our sins for to abjure;
Or else to prove our constancy; or lastly, that we may
Be instruments, in whom his might God may abroad display.
Now must I needs confess to you my former ignorance,
Which knew no cause at all, why God should trouble his elect,
But thought afflictions all to be rewards for our offence,
And to proceed from wrathful judge did alway it suspect;
As do the common sort of men, who will straightway direct,
And point their fingers at such men as God doth chastise here,
Esteeming them by just desert their punishment to bear.
Such is the nature of mankind, himself to justify,
And to condemn all other men, whereas we ought of right
Accuse ourselves especial, and God to magnify,
Who in his mercy doth us spare, whereas he also might,
Sith that we do the selfsame things, with like plagues us requite:
Which thing our Saviour Christ doth teach, as testifieth Luke,
The thirteenth chapter, where he doth vainglorious men rebuke.
But for this time let this suffice: now let us homeward go,
And further talk in private place, if need be, we will have.
With right good-will I will attend on you your house unto,
Or else go you with me to mine, the longer journey save;
For it is now high dinner-time: my stomach meat doth crave.
I am soon bidden to my friend: come on; let us depart.
Go you before, and I will come behind with all my heart.
ACT II., SCENE 1.
God speed you all that be of God's belief:
The mighty Jehovah protect you from ill.
I beseech the living God, that he would give
To each of you present a hearty good-will
With flesh to contend, your lust for to kill,
That, by the aid of spiritual assistance,
You may subdue your carnal concupiscence.
God grant you all, for his mercy's sake,
The light of his word to your heart's joy.
I humbly beseech him a confusion to make
Of erroneous sects which might you annoy:
Earnestly requiring each one to employ
His whole endeavour God's word to maintain,
And from strange doctrine your hearts to refrain.
Grant, Lord, I pray thee, such preachers to be
In thy congregation, thy people to learn,
As may, for conscience' sake and of mere sincerity,
Being able 'twixt corn and cockle to discern,
Apply their study to replenish the bern;
That is thy Church, by their doctrines increase,
And make many heirs of thine eternal peace. Amen. Amen.
But soft, let me see who doth me aspect.
First, sluggish Saturn of nature so cold,
Being placed in Tauro, my beams do reject,
And Luna in Cancro in sextile he behold.
I will the effect hereafter unfold:
Now Jupiter the gentle, of temperature mean,
Poor Mercury the turncoat, he forsook clean.
Now murthering Mars retrograde in Libra,
With amiable tryne apply to my beam;
And splendent Sol the ruler of the day,
After his eclipse to Jupiter will lean:
The goddess of pleasure (dame Venus, I mean)
To me her poor servant seem friendly to be:
So also doth Luna, otherwise called Phoebe.
But now I speak mischievously, I would say, in a mystery;
Wherefore, to interpret it, I hold it best done,
For here be a good sort, I believe, in this company,
That know not my meaning, as this man for one.
What! blush not at it; you are not alone:
Here is another that know not my mind,
Nor he in my words great favour can find.
The planet Mercurius is neither hot nor cold,
Neither good, nor yet very bad of his own nature,
But doth alter his quality with them, which do hold
Any friendly aspect to him: even so I assure
We Mercurialists, I mean hypocrites, cannot long endure
In one condition, but do alter our mind
To theirs that talk with us, thereby friendship to find.
The little cameleon, by nature, can change
Herself to that colour to which she behold:
Why should it then to any seem strange,
That we do thus alter? why are we controll'd,
Sith only the rule of nature we hold?
We seek to please all men, yet most do us hate,
And we are rewarded for friendship debate.
Saturnus is envious; how then can he love
Adulation or Hypocrisy, to him most contrary?
The Jovists, being good, do look high above,
And do not regard the rest of the company.
Now Mars, being retrograde, foretelleth misery
To tyrannical practice to happen eftsoon,
As shall be apparent before all be done.
Which Tyranny with flattery is easily pacified;
Whereas Tom Tell-troth shall feel of his sword;
So that with such men is fully verified
That old-said saw, and common byword,
_Obsequium amicos_--by flatteries friends are prepared,
But _veritas odium parit_, as commonly is seen:
For speaking the truth many hated have been.
By Sol understand Popish principality,
With whom full highly I am entertained,
But being eclipsed shall show forth his quality;
Then shall Hypocrisy be utterly disdained,
Whose wretched exile, though greatly complained,
And wept for of many, shall be without hope,
That in such pomp shall ever be Pope.
By Venus the riotous, by Luna the variable,
Betwixt whom and Mercury no variance can fall,
For they, which in words be most unstable,
Would be thought faithful, and the riotous liberal:
So that Hypocrisy their doings cloak shall.
But whist! not a word, for yonder come some:
While I know what they are, I will be dumb.
ACT II, SCENE 2.
Put me before, for I will shift for one,
[_Push_ AVARICE _backward_.
So long as strength remaineth in this arm:
And pluck up thy heart, thou faint-hearted mome:
As long as I live thou shalt take no harm.
Such as control us, I will their tongues charm
By fire or sword, or other like torment,
So that ever they did it, they shall it repent.
Hast thou forgotten what Satan did say, [HYP. Ambo.]
That the k[nave] Hypocrisy our doings should hide,
So that under his cloak our parts we should play,
And of the rude people should never be spied?
Or if the worst should hap or betide,
That I by Tyranny should both you defend
Against such as mischief to you should pretend.
Indeed, such words our Belsire did speak, [HYP. Tut, Father Jotsam!]
Which, being remembered, doth make my heart glad;
But yet one thing my courage doth break,
And when I think of it, it makes me full sad:
I mean the evil luck which Hypocrisy had,
When he was expelled out of this land;
For then with me the matter evil did stand.
For I by him so shadowed was from light,
[HYP. A little k[nave] to hide so great a lubber.]
That almost no man could me out espy;
But he being gone, to every man's sight
I was apparent: each man did descry
My pilling and polling; so that glad was I
From my nature to cease, a thing most marvellous,
And live in secret, the time was so dangerous.
[HYP. He feareth nothing: he thinketh the hangman is dead.]
Tush! Avarice, thou fearest a thing that is vain,
For by me alone both you shall be stayed;
And, if thou mark well, thou shalt perceive plain
That if I, Tyranny, my part had well played,
[HYP. He can play two parts, the fool and the k[nave].]
And from killing of heretics my hand had not stayed,
They had never growen to such a great rout,
Neither should have been able to have banish'd him out.
But _sero sapiunt Phryges_; at length I will take heed,
[HYP. A popish policy!]
And with blood enough this evil will prevent;
For if I hear of any that in word or in deed--
Yea, if it be possible to know their intent,
If I can prove that in thought they it meant
[HYP. Anti-Christian charity.]
To impair our estates--no prayer shall serve,
But will pay them their hire, as each one deserve.
The fish once taken, and 'scaped from bait,
Will ever hereafter beware of the hook:
Such as use hunting will spy the hare straight,
Though other discern her not, yet on her shall look.
Again, the learned can read in a book,
Though the unskilful, seeing equal with them,
Cannot discern an F from an M.
So those which have tasted the fruit that we bear,
And find it so sour, will not us implant.
Tush! Avarice, I warrant thee, thou need'st not fear:
[HYP. _Utilitas facit esse Deos_.]
In the clergy, I know, no friends we shall want,
Which for hope of gain the truth will recant,
And give themselves wholly to set out Hypocrisy,
Being egg'd on with Avarice, and defended by Tyranny.
Well may the clergy on our side hold,
For they by us no small gain did reap;
But all the temporalty, I dare be bold
To venture in wager of gold a good heap,
At our preferments will mourn, wail, and weep.
[HYP. This is sharp arguments.]
Though indeed no just cause of joy they can find,
Yet for fear of my sword they will alter their mind,
But I marvel much where Hypocrisy is:
Methink it is long since from us he did go.
I doubt that of his purpose he miss,
And therefore hath hanged himself for woe. [HYP. Pray for yourself.]
How say'st thou, Tyranny, dost not think so?
In faith, if I thought that he might be spared,
[HYP. Your kind heart shall cost me a couple of rushes.]
And we have our purpose, beshrew me, if I cared.
Saw you ever the like of this doubting dolt?
[HYP. Not I the like of such a cutthroat colt.]
It grieves me to hear how faint-hearted he is. [_Aside_.
A little would cause me to kill thee, thou ass-colt.
See, see, for woe he is like for to piss:
To give an attempt what a fellow were this?
But this is the good that cometh of Covetousness:
He liveth alway in fear to lose his riches.
Again, mark how he regardeth the death of his friend:
So he hath his purpose, he cares for no mo:
A perfect pattern of a covetous mind,
Which neither esteemeth his friend nor his foe,
But rather, Avarice, might I have said so,
Who, if he were gone, myself could defend,
Where thou by his absence wert soon at an end.
ACT II., SCENE 3.
O loving Father and merciful God!
We through our sins thy punishment deserve,
And have provoked to beat with thy rod
Us stubborn children, which from thee do swerve.
We loathed thy word, but now we shall sterve;
For Hypocrisy is placed again in this land,
And thy true gospel as exile doth stand.
This is thy just judgment for our offence,
Who having the light in darkness did stray,
But now, if thou wouldest of thy fatherly benevolence
Thy purposed judgments in wrath for to stay,
The part of the prodigal son we would play;
And with bitter tears before thee would fall,
And in true repentance for mercy would call.
In our prosperity we would not regard
The words of the preachers, who threat'ned the same,
But flattering ourselves, thought thou wouldest have spared
Us in thy mercy, and never us blame:
But so much provoked thee by blaspheming thy name,
Indeed to deny that in words we maintain,
That from thy justice thou could'st not refrain.
So that Romish Pharaoh, a tyrant most cruel,
Hath brought us again into captivity,
And instead of the pure flood of thy gospel,
Hath poisoned our souls with devilish Hypocrisy,
Unable to maintain it, but by murthering Tyranny;
Seeking rather the fleece than the health of the sheep,
Which are appointed for him for to keep.
[_Re-enter_ AVAR. _and_ TYR.]
Lo, Avarice, hark what a traitor is here,
[HYP. [aside.] He speaketh to you, Syra.]
Against our holy Father this language to use!
I might have heard more, if I would him forbear,
But for grief my ears burn to hear him abuse
His tongue in this manner: wherefore no excuse
Shall purchase favour, but that with all speed
By sword I will render to him his due meed.
Wherefore, thou miscreant, while thou hast time,
Pray to the saints thy spokesman to be,
That at God's hand from this thy great crime
By their intercession thou may be set free.
Nay, hearest thou, Tyranny? be ruled by me:
First cut off his head, and then let him pray,
So shall he be sure us not to bewray.
O wicked Tyranny! thou imp of the devil,
Too joyful tidings to thee have I brought,
For now thou art emboldened to practise all evil.
Marry, thou shalt not give me thy service for nought,
But for thy pains to please thee I thought.
Thou art nothing so ready to do any good,
As thou art to shed poor innocents' blood.
Nay, Tyranny, suffer this rascal to prate,
[HYP. [_aside_.] On your face, sir.]
Till some man come by, and then he is gone.
Then wilt thou repent it, when it is too late:
Despatch him, therefore, while we are alone.
Well may the covetous be likened to a drone,
Which of the bee's labours will spoil and waste make,
And yet to get honey no labour will take.
The covetous likewise from poor men extort,
Their gains to increase they only do seek;
And so they may have it, of them a great sort
What means they use for it they care not a leek:
Yet will these misers scarce once a week
Have one good meal at their own table:
So by Avarice to help themselves they are unable.
Avarice to a fire may well compared be,
To the which the more you add, the more still it crave:
So likewise the covetous mind we do see,
Though riches abound, do wish still more to have
And to be short, your reverences to save,
To a filthy swine such misers are comparable,
Which, while they be dead, are nothing profitable.
Nay, farewell, Tyranny: I came hither too soon,
I perceive already I am too well known.
I were not best in their claws for to come,
Unless I were willing to be clean overthrown.
By the preaching of God's word all this mischief is grown,
Which if Hypocrisy might happily expel,
All we in safety and pleasure might dwell.
Stay, therefore, while from Hypocrisy we hear.
Despatch then this merchant, lest our counsel he tell.
I am content for God's cause this cross for to bear.
It is best killing him now his mind is set well.
Your scoffing and mocking God seeth each deal.
Yea, dost thou persist us still thus to check?
Thy speech I will hinder by cutting off thy neck.
Nay, hold thy hand, Cadby, thou hast kill'd me enough.
What! never the sooner for a merry word.
I meant not good earnest, to your maship I vow.
I did but jest, and spake but in bord:
Therefore of friendship put up again thy sword.
Nay, caitiff, presume not that thou shalt go scot-free;
Therefore, hold still, and I will soon despatch thee.
What! I pray thee, Tyranny, know first who I am.
Ye purblinded fools, do your lips blind your eyes?
Why, I was in place long before you came;
But you could not see the wood for the trees.
But, in faith, father Avarice, I will pay you your fees,
For the great good-will which you to me bear,
And in time will requite it again, do not fear.
Content yourself, good Master Hypocrisy:
The words which I spake, I spake unaware.
Hold thy hand, Hypocrisy, I pray thee heartily:
So like a madman with thy friends do not fare.
For neither of you both a pin do I care:
Go, shake your ears both, like slaves as you be,
And look not in your need to be holpen of me.
What, Master Hypocrisy, will you take snuff so soon?
Marry, then you had need to be kept very warm.
I swear to your mastership, by the man in the moon,
That to your person I intended no harm.
But that I am weary, I would both your tongues charm.
See how to my face they do me deride [_Aside_];
I will not therefore in your companies abide.
Why, Master Hypocrisy, what would you that I do?
For my offence of mercy I you pray.
With thee I am at one; but of that merchant too
I look for some amends, or else I will away.
The presumptuous fool's part herein thou dost play.
What! of thy master dost thou look for obeisance?
I will not once entreat thee: if thou wilt, get thee hence.
_Nimia familiaritas parit contemptum_,
The old proverb by me is verified,
By too much familiarity contemned be some:
Even so at this present to me it betide.
For of long time Hypocrisy hath ruled as guide,
While now, of later days, through heretics' resistance,
I retained Tyranny to yield me assistance;
But through overmuch levity he thinks himself checkmate
With me his good patron, Master Hypocrisy.
List, I pray thee, Avarice, how this rascal can prate,
And with me Tyranny doth challenge equality;
Where he of himself hath neither strength nor hability;
But thou to him riches, and I strength, do give,
So that I must be his master, though it doth him grieve.
Two dogs oftentimes one bone would fain catch,
But yet the third do them both deceive.
Even so Hypocrisy for the pre-eminence doth snatch,
Which Tyranny gapes for, ye may perceive:
But I must obtain it; for of me they retain
All kind of riches, their states to maintain,
To yield to me, therefore, they must be both fain. [_Aside_.
Was Judas Christ's master, because he bare the purse?
Nay, rather of all he was least regarded,
Have not men of honour stewards to disburse
All such sums of money wherewith they be charged?
Yet above their master their honour is not enlarged:
Even so thee, Avarice, my steward I account,
To pay that whereto my charges amount.
And to thee, Tyranny, this one word I object:
Whether was Joab or David the king?
When Joab was glad his ease to reject,
The Ammonites in Rabah to confusion to bring,
When David with Bathsheba at home was sleeping,
Was not Joab, his servant, in warfare to fight?
And so art thou mine, mine enemies to quite.
Nay, then, at the whole God give you good night,
Shall Tyranny to Hypocrisy in any point yield?
With this one word I will vanquish thee quite,
That thou shalt be glad to give me the field.
The end to be preferred all learned men wield:
Sith therefore Hypocrisy of Tyranny is end,
I must have the preferment for which I contend.
[AVA. Indeed you say troth.]
I will make you both grant that I am the chief,
Or else with my sword your sides I will pierce.
That were sharp reasoning indeed, with a mischief!
I will yield him my right, if that he be so fierce.
The nature of hypocrites herein we rehearse;
Which, being convinced by the text of God's word,
The end of their spouting is fire and sword.
But if you will needs be chief, God speed well the plough:
I will be none that shall follow your train;
For if I should, I know well enough
That to fly the country we all should be fain:
Then were my labour done but in vain.
You know not so much as I do, Tyranny,
Therefore, I advise you, be ruled by me.
_Inter amicos omnia sunt communia_, they say:
Among friends there is reckoned no property,
But that the one hath of his own, th' other may
Have the use of the same at his own liberty,
Even so among us it is of a surety;
For what the one hath of his own proper right,
It is thine to use by day or by night.
Indeed you say truth, the end is worth all;
[HYP. He hath learned logeres.]
Such things as to get the end are referred,
And by this reason to you I prove shall,
That I before Hypocrisy must be preferred:
The conclusion of my reason is this inferred;
Sith Hypocrisy was invented to augment private gain,
I am the end of Hypocrisy: this is plain.
_Actum est de amicitia_, the bargain is despatched,
And we two in friendship are united as one.
In the same knot with you let me also be matched,
And of money, I warrant you, you shall want none.
I agree; what say you? shall he be one?
I judge him needful in our company to be,
And therefore, for my part, he is welcome to me.
[HYP. Friendship for gain.]
Let us now speedily on our business attend,
And labour each one to bring it about.
That is already by me brought to end,
So that of your preferment you need not to doubt;
And my coming hither was to find you out,
That at my elbow you might be in readiness,
To help, if need were, in this weighty business.
To tell you the story it were but too tedious,
How the Pope and I together have devised,
Firstly to inveigle the people religious,
For greediness of gain who will be soon pressed:
And, for fear lest hereafter they should be despised,
Of their own freewill will maintain Hypocrisy,
So that Avarice alone shall conquer the clergy.
Now, of the chiefest of his carnal cardinals
He doth appoint certain, and give them authority
To ride abroad in their pontificals,
To see if with Avarice they may win the laity;
If not, then to threaten them with open Tyranny:
Whereby doubt not but many will forsake
The truth of the gospel, and our parties take.
This device is praiseworthy: how say'st thou, Avarice?
I like it well, if it were put in ure,
Yet little gain to me shall this whole practice,
More than I had before-time, procure.
The legates are ready to ride, I am sure;
Wherefore we had need to make no small delay:
They stay for my coming alone, I dare say.
Howbeit the laity would greatly mislike,
If they should know all our purpose and intent;
Yea, and perhaps some means they would seek
Our foresaid business in time to prevent.
Will you then be ruled by my arbitrament?
Lest the people should suddenly dissolve tranquillity,
For the legate's defence, let him use me Tyranny.
Herein your counsel is not much unwise,
Save that in one thing we had need to beware:
Lest you be known, we will you disguise,
And some grave apparel for you will prepare;
But your name, Tyranny, I fear all will mar:
Let me alone, and I will invent
A name to your nature, which shall be convenient.
Zeal shall your name be: how like you by that?
And therefore in office you must deal zealously.
Let me alone, I will pay them home pat:
Though they call me Zeal, they shall feel me Tyranny. [_Aside_.
Lo, here is a garment: come, dress you handsomely.
Ay, marry (quoth he), I like this very well:
Now to the devil's grace you me seem to give counsel.
Now must I apply all my invention,
That I may devise Avarice to hide.
Thy name shall be called Careful Provision,
And every man for his household may lawfully provide:
Thus shalt thou go cloaked, and never be spied.
Thy counsel, Hypocrisy, I very well allow,
And will recompense thee, if ever I know how.
Now on a boon voyage let us depart,
For I [am] well loth any time to delay.
Nay, yet in sign of a merry heart,
Let us sing before we go away.
I am content; begin, I you pray;
But to sing the treble, we must needs have one.
If you say so, let it even alone.
ACT III, SCENE 1.
Too true, alas, too true, I say, was our divination,
The which Mathetes did foresee, when last we were in place;
For now indeed we feel the smart and horrible vexation,
Which Romish power unto us did threaten and menace.
Wherefore great need we have to call to God alway for grace;
For feeble flesh is far too weak those pains to undergo,
The which all they that fear the Lord are now appointed to.
The legate from the Pope of Rome is come into our coasts,
Who doth the saints of God each where with tyranny oppress,
And in the same most gloriously himself he vaunt and boast:
The more one mourneth unto him he pitieth the less.
Out of his cruel tyranny the Lord of heaven me bless;
For hitherto in blessed state my whole life I have spent,
With health of body, wealth in goods, and mind alway content.
Besides, of friends I have great store, who do me firmly love:
A faithful wife and children fair, of woods and pasture store,
And divers other things which I have got for my behoof,
Which now to be deprived of would grieve my heart full sore.
And if I come once in their claws. I shall get out no more,
Unless I will renounce my faith, and so their mind fulfil;
Which if I do, without all doubt my soul for aye I spill.
For sith I have received once the first-fruits of my faith,
And have begun to run the course that leadeth to salvation,
If in the midst thereof I stay or cease, the Scripture saith
It booteth not that I began with so good preparation;
But rather maketh much the more unto my condemnation:
For he alone shall have the palm which to the end doth run,
And he which plucks his hand from plough, in heaven shall never come.
Those labourers which hired were in vineyard for to moil,
And had their penny for their pain, they tarried all while night;
For if they ceased had, when sun their flesh with heat did broil,
And had departed from their work, they should have lost by right
Their wages-penny: I likewise shall be deprived quite
Of that same crown, the which I have in faith long looked for.
But for this time I will depart: I dare here stay no more.
ACT III., SCENE 2.
Ha, ha, ha! marry, now the game begins.
Hypocrisy throughout this realm is had in admiration,
And by my means both Avarice and Tyranny crept in,
Who in short space will make men run the way to desolation.
What did I say? my tongue did trip--I should say, consolation--
For now, forsooth, the clergy must into my bosom creep,
Or else they know not by what means themselves alive to keep.
On the other side the laity, be they either rich or poor--
If rich, then Avarice strangle them, because they will not lose
Their worldly wealth: or else we have one subtle practice more;
That is, that Sensual Suggestion their outward man shall pose,
Who can full finely in each cause his mind to them disclose.
But if that neither of these twain can to my train them win,
Then at his cue to play his part doth Tyranny begin.
As for the poor knaves, such a one as this is,
We do not esteem him, but make short ado.
If he will not come on, we do him not miss,
But to the pot he is sure to go:
Tyranny deals with him and no mo.
But I marvel what doth him from hence so long stay,
Sooner named, sooner come, as common proverbs say.
ACT III., SCENE 3.
TYRANNY, AVARICE, HYPOCRISY.
By his wounds, I fear not, but it is cock sure now.
[HYP. He hath a goodly grace in swearing.]
Under the legate's seal, in office I am placed:
Therefore whoso resist me, I will make him to bow.
Who can make Tyranny now be disgraced?
[HYP. He is graceless already.]
With a head of brass I will not be outfaced,
But will execute mine office with extreme cruelty,
So that all men shall know me to be plain Tyranny.
Nay, Master Zeal, be ruled by me:
To such as resist such rigour you may show.
Zeal? nay, no Zeal; my name is Tyranny:
Neither am I ashamed who doth my name know,
For in my dealings the same I will show,
[HYP. He is Kit Careless.]
None dare reprove me, of that I am sure,
So long as authority on my side endure.
But to thy words a while I will list;
Therefore in brief say on what you will.
I would have you show rigour to such as resist,
And such as be obstinate spare not to kill;
But those that be willing your hests to fulfil,
[HYP. Hark the practice of spiteful Sumnors.]
If they offend, and not of obstinacy,
For money excuse them, though they use villany,
Thus shall you perform your office aright,
For favour or money to spare the offendent.
So may I also, of malice or spite,
Or rancour of mind, punish the innocent.
But I will be ruled by thine arbitrament,
And will favour such as will my hand grease.
The devil is a good fellow, if one can him please:
[HYP. And you are one of his sons, methink, by your head.]
But to follow our business great pains we do take;
On an hasty message we were fit to be sent.
When I lie a-dying, I will you messengers make:
You ply you so fast, you are too-too diligent.
Whoop how, Master Zeal, whither are ye bent?
Hark! methought one hallooed, and called you by name.
I would it were Hypocrisy.
It is the very same.
What, Master Hypocrisy, for you I have sought
This hour or two, but could you not find.
That is no marvel, it is not for nought,
For I am but little, and you two are blind;
Neither have you eyes to see with behind:
Yet may the learned note herein a mystery,
That neither Tyranny nor Avarice can find out Hypocrisy.
But what earnest business have you in charge,
That with so great speed must presently be finished?
Marry, see here.
What is it?
A commission large
From my Lord Legate himself authorised,
The effect whereof must presently be practised.
What is the tenure, pray you let me know?
Avarice hath read it, not I; let him show.
He hath firstly in charge to make inquisition,
Whether altars be re-edified, whether chalice and book,
Vestments for mass, sacraments, and procession,
Be prepared again: if not, he must look,
And find out such fellows as these cannot brook,
And to my Lord Legate such merchants present,
That for their offence they may have condign punishment.
If any we take tardy, Tyranny them threat,
That for their negligence he will them present;
And I desirous some money to get,
If ought they will give me, their evil will prevent;
Yea, sometime of purpose such shifts we invent.
Peace, yonder comes one; methink it is a priest,
By his gown, cap, and tippet made of a list.
ACT III., SCENE 4.
CACONOS, HYPOCRISY, TYRANNY, AVARICE.
In gude feth, sir, this newis de gar me lope,
Ay is as light as ay me wend, gif that yo wol me troth,
Far new agen within awer loud installed is the Pope,
Whese legat with authority tharawawt awr country goth,
And charge befare him far te com us priests end lemen hath,
Far te spay awt, gif that he mea, these new-sprang arataics,
Whilk de disturb aur hally Kirk, laik a sart of saysmatics.
Awr gilden Gods ar brought ayen intea awr kirks ilkwhare,
That unte tham awr parishioner ma offer thar gude-will.
For hally mass in ilk place new thea autars de prepare,
Hally water, pax, cross, banner, censer and candill,
Cream, crismatory, hally bread, the rest omit ay will,
Whilt hally fathers did invent fre awd antiquity,
Be new received inte awr kirks with great solemnity.
Bay these thaugh lemen been apprest, the clargy all het gean,
Far te awr sents theis affer yifts all whilk we sall receive:
Awr hally mass, thaw thea bay dere, thea de it but in vain,
Far thaw ther frends frea Purgatory te help thea dea believe,
Yet af ther hope, gif need rewhayre, it wawd theam all deceive.
Sea wawd awr pilgrimage, reliques, trentals, and pardons,
Whilk far awr geyn inte awr Kirk ar braught in far the nonce.
Far well a nere what war awr tenths and taythes that gro in fild,
What gif we han of glebed loud ene plawwark bay the year,
Awr affring deas de vara laytell ar nething te us yield:
Awr beadroll geanes, awr chrisom clethes de laytle mend awr fare
Gif awt af this we pea far vale, we laytle mare can spare.
Sawl-masses, diriges, monethmayndes and buryings,
Alsowlnday, kirkings, banasking and weddings.
The sacraments, gif we mowt sell, war better than thea all;
Far gif the Jews gave thratty pence te hang Chraist on a tree,
Gude Christian folk thrayse thratty pence wawd count a price but small;
Sea that te eat him with their teeth delaivered he mawght be.
New of this thing delaiverance ne man can make but we,
Se that the market in this punt we priests sawd han at will,
And with the money we sowd yet awr pooches we sowd fill.
I will go and salute him: good morrow, Sir John.
Naw, bay may priest-hade, God give ye ten far ene.
Do you, Master Parson, in this parish sing?
Yai, sir, that ay de, gif yowl give me trothing.
I have a commission your house and church to seek,
To search if you any seditious books do keep.
Whe ay? well a near, ay swear bay the Sacrament,
Ay had rather han a cup af nale than a Testament.
How can you without it your office discharge?
It is the least thing ay car far, bay may charge;
Far se lang as thea han images wharon te luke,
What need thea be distructed awt af a buik?
Tush! that will modify them all well enou':
As well a dead image as a dumb idol, I make God avow.
Yai, ay my sen bay experience thot con show;
Far in may portace the tongue ay de nat know,
Yet when ay see the great gilded letter,
Ay ken it sea well, as nea man ken better.
As far example: on the day of Chraist's nativity,
Ay see a bab in a manger and two beasts standing by:
The service whilk to Newyear's-day is assaign'd
Bay the paicture of the circumcision ay faynd: