Performing Fulgens and Lucres: Henry Medwall and the Tudor Great Hall Play.
Performed in the private homes of royal or aristocratic patrons, Tudor great hall plays were written for specific audiences and specific playing spaces. Plays of this type were often part of larger entertainments: they were incorporated into triumphs welcoming foreign dignitaries, into seasonal celebrations like Twelfth Night, into festivities in honor of births and betrothals, and into lavish court revels. Like today's performance art "happenings," great hall plays were envisioned as one-time entertainments. As "occasional" plays written in response to the different demands, limitations, and proclivities of wealthy households, they differed significantly from one another: in the manner in which the great hall space was employed, in the types of players that were engaged (household servants, chapel boys, hired troupes, etc.), in running time, and in the ways in which they formally acknowledged their performance contexts.
In most cases, scholars can do no more than make educated guesses about these circumstances of performance. Practically speaking, this means that all too often readings of such plays gloss over an uncertain performance history in favor of making sense of a play's formal features: its structure, formal characteristics, and generic orientation. Though great hall plays were written for specific occasions and conditions, the argument goes, nevertheless, like other period drama, they are based on scripts that provide plots and that conjure up self-sustaining play worlds: Active spheres of action that are not dependent on the world of the audience even as they interact with it. Perhaps the verse patterns of great hall plays, their subject matter, and the rhetorical strategies employed by their playwrights can tell us something about the ways in which drama was envisioned in this period, regardless of whether or not we know who commissioned a certain play or where and when a certain play would have been performed.
Unfortunately, however, such attempts to describe the similar formal char-acteristics that underlie great hall plays' unique performance contexts can lead one to overlook the fact that it was these unique contexts that defined the range of formal possibilities available to playwrights. For the playwright, the players involved in great hall productions, and their audiences, making sense of a play's dramatic structure involved the concrete experience of putting on a performance or of watching a performance. The play was its performance, with all of the opportunities and demands inherent in inhabiting a specific playing space on a specific occasion.
To some degree, this critical oversight is to be expected since often the only extant information available regarding a great hall play's formal structure comes from the printed playbook in which it was preserved. The few extant great hall play texts that have come down to us have survived in the form of playbooks that were published much later and in very different circumstances than the plays they make available. Such printed editions were the product of a publisher's interpretation of the text, of his editorial practices, and of his application of a set of marketing strategies, and thus are not always good indicators of the original shape that great hall plays took or of the performance demands that would have shaped such "occasional" drama. Unfortunately, for most plays from the period, playbooks are the only source of information about a particular work.
Nowhere does this problem become clearer than in the case of Henry Med-wall's Fulgens and Lucres, (1) the earliest surviving great hall play written in English and one of the best-known examples of the Tudor interlude. Twentieth-century bibliographers, like W. W. Greg and Alfred Harbage, classified Medwall's play as multipart drama, (2) giving precedence to the title page and to other paratextual material appended by John Rastell, the publisher of the first edition of Fulgens and Lucres, who divided the play into two parts. Their bibliographical surveys conflated the printed playbook and the play, ignoring the fact that the dramatic text that Rastell published was in fact a single play with a long break or intermission in the middle. (3) They overlooked the play text's own directions regarding the manner in which it should be performed and inadvertently attributed to Medwall the honor of being the first known English playwright to write a vernacular multipart dramatic text. More recently, scholars have recognized that the play's putative two parts were performed as a single play with an intermission. (4) Nonetheless, they have not paid sufficient attention to how a long intermission, or a single play whose segmentation appeared to indicate the presence of multiple parts, might have signified in and been shaped by performance.
The pages that follow will attempt to redress this oversight by demonstrating how understanding the performance context of a great house play like Henry Medwall's Fulgens and Lucres can do much to clarify its formal structure. Rather than assuming that great hall plays were dramatic entities whose formal features migrated unchanged from performance into print and were impervious to one or both mediums, this brief foray into of Fulgens and Lucres's, performance history will demonstrate how our understanding of the dramatic structure of Tudor great house drama improves when we take into account what great hall play texts can tell us about their own circumstances of production and how such circumstances might have defined the frameworks in which playwrights like Medwall worked. By doing so, this essay hopes to illustrate the benefits of considering how a great house play's structure might mean something different in performance than it does in print, even when our only substantial evidence regarding a play's performance comes from a printed edition.
On April 13, 1534 Sir Thomas More traveled to Lambeth Palace with a heavy heart to answer the demand that he swear the Oath of Supremacy that would declare Henry VIII the head of the Church of England. Four days later, in the room now known as the Lambeth Palace Guard Chamber, he patiently listened to Thomas Cramner and Thomas Cromwell's renewed demands to agree that "ye shall swear to bear your Faith, Truth, and Obedience, alonely to the King's Majesty, [...] and not to any other within this Realm, nor foreign Authority, Prince, or Potentate." (5) As he did so, More likely took renewed stock of his surroundings. He had sat in the Guard Chamber on many occasions. He would probably have remembered it as the Great Chamber, and recalled how, nearly forty-four years earlier, he had been sent to Lambeth as a twelve-year-old page to serve in the household of Cardinal John Morton. It was in this same room that he had waited at table and had watched and participated in household entertainments. He had enjoyed them greatly. As John Roper put it, in his Life of Sir Thomas More (c. 1556):
Though he was young of years, yet would he at Christmastide suddenly sometimes step in among the players, and never studying for the matter, make a part of his own there presently among them, which made the lookers-on more sport than all the players beside. In whose wit and towardness the Cardinal much delighting, would often say of him unto the nobles that divers times dined with him, 'This child here waiting at the table, whosoever shall live to see it, will prove a marvellous man.' (Ins. 8-15) (6)
In the intervening years, More had lived up to the promise. Like Cromwell and Cramner, he had not come from a noble family and had become Sir Thomas More only by virtue of his wit and the humanist education that the good cardinal had helped procure for him. (7) It wasn't only his patron, however, from whom More had profited at Lambeth. Great household retinues, like Morton's, regularly employed a variety of men--other gentlemen, chamberlains, stewards, chaplains, clerks, grooms, yeomen, pages, cooks, all manner domestic servants, minstrels, and often, even players. (8) Sometime between 1491 and 1492, the now fourteen-year old Thomas More would have met a man new to the Cardinal's employ--the young Henry Medwall. The thirty-year-old notary had been acquainted with Morton since his days as a King's College scholar at Cambridge, (9) and, by 1491 had become a formal member of the household. (10) This association proved to be important not just because both of the young men seemed destined for a career in law and had become, each in their own way, great favorites of their master. Medwall wasn't just a notary public well on his way to becoming the highly trusted personal secretary who eventually kept virtually all of his Morton's records," just as More wasn't simply the future Inns of Court student and Privy Councilor who would eventually become Chancellor of England. Medwall was also a playwright, and it is in this capacity that More, future humanist and author of Utopia, seems to have encountered him.
At the time when More became part of Morton's retinue, Medwall was busy adapting for performance a humanist controversia that he had read in his university days. He was working on what we have come to call Fulgens and Lucres, but which the young notary would have thought of simply as an entertainment drawn from a Latin humanist treatise, Controversia de nobili-tate, written by Bonaccorso da Montemagno il giovane in the late 1420s. (12) Medwall had come across the text in John Tiptoft the Earl of Worcester's translation, likely made sometime between 1459 and 1460," when Tiptoft was touring Italy, "living for a time in Guarino [the Younger]'s circle in Ferrara, but then travelling also to Florence where he probably saw the Latin text." (14) In 1481, William Caxton had printed Tiptoft's translation as A Declamation of Noblesse, which is how Medwall likely encountered it while a student at Cambridge. Alan Nelson points out that "as a first-year scholar, Medwall was probably reading Cicero in 1481, the very year in which Caxton published the volume of Cicero that also included Tiptoft's translation of the Declamation of Noblesse." (15) It might be more correct to say, however, that it was probably Tiptoft's Cicero that had attracted the young man in the first place. The handsome folio, dedicated to Edward IV, brought together Tip-toft's translation of Cicero's De Amicitia, the Declamation of Nobless, and an anonymous translation of Cicero's De Senectute, made for Sir John Fastolf (1380-1459), which a casual reader might have similarly attributed to John Tiptoft, as John Leland did. (16)
As was often the case, Caxton's paratexts to the volume appealed to a powerful patron, while they simultaneously engaged a mass readership. After setting up shop in Westminster in 1476 Caxton had made sure to indicate that the works that issued from his printing shop, from romances like The History of Jason (1477) and Godfrey of Boloyne (1481), to his volume of Cicero, were written "vnder the vmbre and shadowe of the noble proteccion of our moost dradde soue-uerayne and naturel liege lord." (17) Nevertheless, "once Caxton had begun to reach a larger public, patrons became less important to him. This explains why so many of his printed prologues and epilogues, unlike their manuscript counterparts, refer[ed] both to patrons and to one or more segments of the reading public. After all, a patron might occasion the publication of a book, but Caxton had to market the book in quantity himself, a direct contrast to a Lydgate or a Hoccleve producing single manuscripts on commission [...]." (18) His Cicero, as Caxton himself writes, was for anyone who could afford it--for the "noble / wyse/ & grete lords gentilemen & | marchauntes that haue seen & dayly ben occupied in maters | towchyng the pubyque weal." (19) As a number of recent studies show, Caxton's paratexts were in fact designed to make a book appealing not only to noble patrons, but to the " 'dyverce gentilmen' and his own friends" who aspired to the ideals and life of the court. (20) A clear testament to his success, by the end of his life, Caxton's books had even reached young men of humble back-grounds, like Medwall, who encountered them in a university setting.
Adapting the Declamation of Noblesse into a play was a shrewd move on Medwall's part. His choice of text was impeccable. However Caxton might have interacted with his various patrons, he had always nominally showed support for the Yorkists. (21) Tiptoft, too, had devotedly served Edward IV, gaining influence in the Yorkist administration, first as Constable of the Tower of London (1461), then as Lord High Constable (1462), and finally as Lord Deputy of Ireland (1467); indeed, he had died supporting the Yorkist faction in 1470, in what is usually termed the re-adeption of Henry VI. If Medwall was hoping to acknowledge his patron's long political career and the circumstances that had occasioned his rise to power in Henry Tudor's administration, he could not have done better. John Morton had similarly served under Edward IV, first as Master of Rolls beginning with 1472, then Chancellor of England and Bishop of Ely, beginning in 1478. (22) Though a Lancastrian in the 1460s, Keeper of the Privy Seal in exile with the court of Queen Margaret, he had been pardoned by Edward IV in 1471, after a long exile in France, and had made sure to display his loyalty to the Yorkists on subsequent occasions. When Richard of Gloucester had assumed power in the early spring of 1483, he had remained loyal to Edward and, as a result, was imprisoned, first in the Tower and then in Wales. He escaped to Flanders, contributing to or at least taking advantage of the Duke of Buckingham's timely October Rebellion. (23) When he returned to England with Henry VII, he took Medwall, who had resigned from Cambridge in the same period, into his service.
The political loyalties of the Declamation of Noblesse' s translator and publisher would not have been the only reason to select this particular text for dramatic adaptation. The subject matter of the disputation would have added to the appeal. A debate about the nature of nobility and the merit of personal virtue would not have fallen on deaf ears in Morton's humanist household. Morton originated from a family of "middling gentry"--we know that "John's uncle served as MP for Shaftesbury in 1437 and his younger brother was sheriff of Somerset and Dorset in 1483." (24) Morton himself had worked hard, like Medwall, to make a name for himself. (25) Morton's phenomenal rise to power had been largely a result of fierce ambition and political canniness, rather than the product of a noble birth. In the words that the Earl of Surrey would use to describe Thomas More, in The Book of Sir Thomas More, by dint of his own hard work Morton had become "the honourablest scholar, / The most religious politician, / The worthiest counsellor, that tends our state" (8.144-46). (26) A great hall play like Fulgens and Lucres, which argued in favor of the low-born witty and ambitious humanist who does well for him-self, would have pleased him.
It is with the ambitious humanist that one should begin in order to understand why Medwall structured his great hall play as he did. The question of the optimus status republicae, a term employed by writers like Cicero (De Of[beta]ciis, 2.3) and Seneca (De Beneficiis, 2.20.4) and already in use in the thirteenth century in treatises such as Giovanni da Viterbo's De regimine civita-tum and Brunetto Latini's Livres du Tresor, had become by the quattrocento a hot-button issue in humanist circles. The enduring question of the best form of government led to works such as Giannantonio Campano's De regendo magistratu (1460) and Filippo Beroaldo's 1497 De optimo statu (21) and, as Quentin Skinner points out, gave rise to debates regarding the "range of attri-butes that citizens needed to possess if they are to discharge their civic officia to the best effect. [...] Or, to put it in the precise vocabulary the Renaissance writers liked to use, the question is about the qualities that go to make a truly noble citizen, a citizen of vera nobilitas whose conduct is worthy of honor, esteem and praise." (28) The nobility debate (ranging in form from the letter to the dialogue to the oration) developed into a topos in the following century, leading to numerous treatises in Ciceronian Latin--the best known being Poggio Bracciolini's De nobilitate (1440)--as well as to books that attempted to educate the new nobility, arguably culminating in Castiglione's 1528 Il Cortegiano.
The concern with this topos, however, was hardly just an Italian one. Though in England the debate did not really take off until the middle of the sixteenth century, many earlier works actively engaged with the issue. (29) Indeed, even as early as 1481, the question of whether nobility was defined by birth alone had become exceedingly important, as the increasing bureaucratization of the government, the development of law, as a profession, and the possibility of acquiring a good education and a financially rewarding career in the Church ushered in a new "age of ambition" (30) that allowed men to become gentlemen, even if they had not been born such. Medwall's return to Tiptoft's translation was a timely reevaluation of such issues, which leaned heavily towards the answer that humanists like More and Erasmus would provide in the decades to follow. (31) It would have certainly piqued the interest of Morton's guests, who at various times included church officials, foreign diplomats, English magnates, lawyers, and peers of the realm. Indeed, as David Bevington suggests, even if Fulgens and Lucres addresses itself to John Morton and espouses a humanist ethos, "the barons were doubtless present." (32) Perhaps it was even the young More's first exposure to this debate.
Buonaccorso's plot had been minimal. Lucres, the daughter of the Roman Senator Fulgens, is wooed by two suitors of vastly different backgrounds: Publius Cornelius Scipio is a wealthy young man belonging to an ancient and noble family; Gayus Flamineus is a low-born commoner of humble means who has become well-respected in the republic for his virtuous deeds and his learning. The two men appear before the Roman senate to plead for the hand of Lucres. Each gives an oration in the course of which he argues for his own view of the nature of nobility and disparages that of his opponent. The disputation ends abruptly, as Gayus enjoins the senate to make what seems to him to be the only rational choice.
Medwall's source, however, also contained an epilogue. The lack of an outcome had bothered William Caxton so much that he felt compelled to turn the inconclusive ending into a question that he could put to his readers: "As touchyng the sentence dyffynytyf gyuen by the Se-| nate aftir thise two noble knyghtes had purposed and | shewed theyr Oracions I fynde none as yet pronounced I ne gyuen of whiche myn auctor maketh ony mencion | of in his book / Thenne I woulde demaunde of theym that || shal rede or | here this book . whiche of this tweyne that is | to saye Cornelius Scipio and Gayus Flammy- | neus was moost noble [...]." (33) It is this ambiguous ending that had caught Medwall's eye. It was an opportunity he could seize, a gap that he could fill in such a way as to offer his patron what the original disputation could not: a flattering portrait of a humanist figure, an account that gave Gayus the upper hand.
The account that Medwall created is formally what we might call a "great hall play." Suzanne Westfall defines the great hall play as a "fugue" in which "the patron exercised ownership over his revels, in that he ordered them and paid for them. At the same time, however, he was also the object of the revels, which were designated to clarify him by representing his ideas, his wealth, and his artistic tastes. The patron's dual role as producer and spectator formed an elaborate fugue, unarticulated in the dramatic theory of the period but omnipresent and subtextual." (34) Perhaps, though, it would be clearer to say that Tudor great hall plays were always occasional works. It would not have been enough to simply make sure that one had chosen an appropriate text and subject matter. To be successful, a great hall play also needed to respond to certain demands: it had to hold the interest of the audience, it had to respect the occasion for which it was written, and it had to keep in mind spatial and temporal constraints. It is Medwall's attempt to accommodate these various demands and his desire to not "exceed a mesure" and "do oure labour and trewe entent /... At my lordis pleasure" (1.1429-32) (35) that condition the formal features of the drama. Obviously, Medwall did not set out to write the earliest surviving Tudor interlude or the earliest surviving "two-part play" in English, as W. W. Greg and later bibliographers would have it; rather, he devised a household entertainment that he hoped would please John Morton and his guests and showcase his own talent on one particular occasion.
The formal features of the disputatio that Medwall chose to adapt might have been partially responsible for the form that the resulting play took, especially in terms of Medwall's decision to assign a long speech to both Cornelius and Gayus, but Medwall's narrative break does not correspond to arguments in defense of a proposition. (36) Rather, Medwall organized his interlude around a series of carefully orchestrated nods to the audience, which culminated in the long intermission that divides the play in half, itself a sort of nod. By means of these acknowledgments, Medwall was able both to include the spectators in the entertainment that was nominally being put on for their benefit and to make the issue that the interlude expounds--the question of nobility--relevant to those watching it. This constant turning back to those present in the great hall should not be surprising. (37) These nods were not what we might call asides; they did not reveal some aspect of a character's thought process. Rather, inherited from the medieval morality tradition, (38) they became part and parcel of the great hall performance, which necessitated a constant readjustment of what E. M. Moeslein calls "the action's focal depth" in order to fit the occasion. (39) What should be surprising, however, is that Medwall took this relatively common practice and used it as a means to structure his play. The break that occurs in the middle of Fulgens and Lucres was the culmination of a series of such nods to the audience.
In Fulgens and Lucres, the characters A and B are formally responsible for all of the interactions with Morton and his guests, functioning as both players and ushers of sorts. Taking advantage of the surprise and silence that his own entrance has elicited, "A" begins the play with a comment to the audience about the "mery drynkynge / and good recreacyon" (1.15-16) of those present in the hall, marveling that, having drunk so much, the guests are so quiet. He invites the lookers-on to "therefore be mery as ye fare" (1.11) and goes on to suppose that there must be something afoot if everyone "stoned musynge" (1.20). Pleading ignorance, he attempts to find confirmation that some type of entertainment will indeed take place, singling out a man "among this presse" (1.17) of guests. This individual turns out to be "B." B announces that a play is to be put on, which leads A to suppose that B is part of the upcoming entertainment, something that B adamantly denies:
A: I trow your owyn selfe be oone Of them that shall play. B: Nay, I am none. I trowe thou spekyst in derision To lyke me thereto. A: Nay, I mok not, wot ye well, For I thought verily by your apparell That ye had bene a player. B: Nay, never a dell. A: Then I cry you mercy: I was to blame. Lo, therefor, I say There is so myche nyce aray Among these galandis now aday That a man shall not lightly Know a player from a nother man. B: I see well here shal be a play than. And I trow ye shall like it well. A: It seemeth than that ye can tell Sumwhat of the matter. B: Ye, I am of counsel, One told me all the processe (1.48-63)
In part functioning as a critique of lavish aristocratic display, this brief exchange breaks down both the hierarchical relationship of master and servant and upends the symbolic relationship between audience and players. (40) A and B are clearly players, but they continue to pretend that they are part of the audience. In doing so, they make the blurring of audience-player boundaries, so common in early Tudor drama, do work for them. They reflect the audience back to itself, playfully criticizing its members.
Posing as a guest, B then goes on to give a summary of the action (1.70-126). A is taken aback: "And shall this be the process of the play? / B: Ye, so I understone [sic] be credible informacyon." (1.126-27). B, who seems to possess credible information about the festivities, was likely a household member. Indeed, the alphabetical enumeration of the two servants as A and B, 1 and 2, this household servant and that one, seems to suggest both that the roles were not pre-assigned in Medwall's manuscript and/or that the two actors might have appeared in the play as themselves, under their own names. (41) Even disregarding their true identities, the pair would have been playing themselves to some degree, since, like all players, A and B are servants seeking pay. One of the play's little jokes is that A and B are two masterless men, who deceive their way into Gayus and Cornelius' service. B enters the service of Cornelius, whom the audience would have equated with landed gentry, while A enters the service of Gayus, the humanist who had advanced himself to a respectable position. This does not happen, however, until the actor playing Cornelius first turns to the audience again, offering Morton's distinguished guests the job, in an inversion of class expectations that recalls the behavior of the Lord of Misrule during holiday mummings:
Now a wise fellow that had sumwhat a brayne
And of suche thingis had experience, Such a one wolde I with me retayne To give me counseile and assistance ... So many gode felowes as byn in this hall, And is there non, syrs, among you all That wyll enterprise this gere? (1.347-56)
Whether the question was greeted by assent or silence, B--a shrewd social climber--seizes the opportunity. He reasons that it is a "mete office for me, / For I wyl be of councell and I may / With yonder man--" (1.360). A interrupts his plans for advancement, worrying that B's scheming will "destroy all the play" (2.363). Given that, at this point, A and B are still nominally part of the audience, his complaint is valid. As Thomas More would later point out in The History of Richard III, the focal lens readjustments in which Medwall specialized were liable to wreck plays: "And in a stage play, [...] if one [in the audience] should can so little good to shew out of season what acquaintance he hath with him [the player], and called him by his own name while he [the player] standeth in his majesty, one of his tormentors might hap to break his head--and worthy, for marring of the play. [...] And they that wise be, will meddle no farther: for they that sometimes step up and play with them when they cannot play their parts, they disorder the play and do themselves no good." (42) B's desire to call out to Cornelius "by his own name while he standeth in majesty," while B was still performing the role of an audience member, could indeed have disordered the play by disregarding the imaginary boundary between audience and actors. Might the mature More have been recalling his youthful meddling, as B ? (43)
B--or More, if he did indeed play B--replies that "nay, nay, / The play began never till now" (1.364-65). He helps A find employment with Gayus by vouching for his respectability (1.575-651) when A tells Gayus that "ye syr, and some tyme knew me, / Though it be oute of your remembraunce" (1.604-5). (44) Part of the entertainment Medwall hoped to provide might indeed have been to see two individuals, well known to Cardinal Morton and to fellow servants (like the one playing Cornelius), claim that they are strangers who "lyve most parte in ydelnes" (1.398-99), so that they are in desperate need of employment. (45) The hiring of two supposed audience members by two play characters dissolves the boundaries between the play world yet again. As B puts it, this is where the play truly begins.
After providing a summary of the action that will take place (1.70-139), an account of Fulgens' decision to allow his daughter to choose her own suitor (1.410-71), and an explanation of how A and B entered the service of Gayus and Cornelius (1.360-93, 1.575-653), the first segment of the play ends by laying out a subplot that Medwall invents. For the purpose of this argument, it is not necessary explain it in great detail, except to say that the servants A and B both engage in a mock contest of "maystry, / Be it in cookery or in pastry" (1.1095-96) for the hand of Lucres' maid, Joan. Ever-practical, Joan denies both of her suitors. After various contests that satirize the courtly tradition--from singing, to wrestling, to mock jousting on foot--Joan reveals that she is "sure to another man, / Whose wyfe I intende to be" (1.1.1221-22). She holds firm to her initial decision that "whosomeever shall have me, / I promes you faithfully, / He shall me fyrst assure / Of .xx. pound londe in joyncture" (1.924-27), and she beats both A and B before departing. B's plea to the audience to "fall to prayer, syrs, it is nede" (1.1221) has been for naught.
Thus, at the end of the first segment of the interlude, we already know the outcome of the play. We have been provided with both an official version of the plot and with a subplot counterexample that completely dismisses the exercise in reasoning that the play sets out to perform. Lucres' maid is no Aristotle, but here she fulfills the role of an authority. Under her guidance, B comes to understand that "he that hathe moste nobles in store / Hym cal I the most noble evermore" (1.1377-78). The pun on "noble" (as a coin and as an attribute) reveals the question at the heart of the play: has the question of nobility even been posed in the right terms? Has Buonaccorso (Tiptoft, for Medwall) framed the debate correctly? Is nobility in fact either a matter of personal virtue or of noble birth? Or is nobility the product of nobles, of looking the "galandis" (1.55), as B does at the beginning of the interlude? (46)
At this point, Medwall breaks his performance in half, in order to accommodate the more immediately pressing concern that his employer's guests have a chance to eat. If the beginning of the great hall play must accommodate a midday dinner, writing it into the opening of the play (A's injunction to the guests to be merry, "have note ye etyn and your fill" [1.3]), the break or intermission between the first and second part must accommodate an evening supper, incorporating it in a similar manner. (47) By extension, if, until now, the nods to the audience have functioned as a way to keep guests engaged, to tend to their imaginative needs, the break functions as an address to their bodily needs. As A puts it: "These folke that sitt here in the halle / May not attende theretoo. / We may not with oure long play / Lett them fro they re dyner all day. / They have not fully dyned" (1.1413-16). The play-world gives way to the real world in the players' awareness of the presence and needs of the audience. By acknowledging the audience, A and B seem to attest to the fact that, whatever their play roles, they have not cast off their other household "labour" (1.1430). Indeed, we are now told that the play itself is "at my lordis pleasure" (1.1432), or played at his commandment. The lord is master of the feast, and the play must accommodate his guests' needs.
In this context, the question of playing parts should also be addressed. If the play were being put on by household servants, the roles that the players might have had to fulfill could have included domestic ones. The beginning of Fulgens and Lucres seems to acknowledge such a doubling by suggesting that, before they very self-consciously enter the play world as hired men, A and B are part of the audience, people in the "presse" crowding in the back of hall. (48) Even so, the players would not have been guests. They would have been men and boys pulled from their day to day jobs, jobs that might have included serving at table. Citing David Bevington, E. M. Moeslein suggests that "the seven roles could have been carried out by the boys currently under John Holt's tutelage, and a few of the younger members of Morton's legal staff." (49) This line of reasoning seems to be suggested by the play itself. When B lies to Gayus regarding his long acquaintance with A (the audience knows that A and B encounter each other as strangers at the beginning of the play), he does so by vouching that: "he and I dwelt many a feyre day / In one scole, and yet I wot well / From thens he bare never away / The worth of halfe penny that I can tell" (1.664-65). While this assertion isn't true in the play-world, where it simply works as a dig at B's ignorance, it might be true in respect to Morton's household, as a joke exchanged between the playwright and players. In any case, we know from William Roper's account that during banquets such young boys were engaged as pages and asked to serve at table. Even if More was not one of the pages on this particular occasion, the practice must have been common. Indeed, it might have made it imperative for Medwall to split the play in half.
At the end of the first segment of the play, A provides a cue. It is not a cue to another actor, but rather to the servants: "Usher, gete them goode wyne thereto, / Fyll them of the best. / Let it be do or ye wyll be shent, / For it is the wyll and commaundement / Of the master of the fest" (1.1422-26). (50) The lines both draw attention to the next "part" of the festivities and alert the servants waiting beyond the dividing screen, which separated the main portion of the hall from the entry, that they are now free to enter the performance space, perhaps joined by some of the players who will help serve. (51) The domestic cue that becomes theatrical seems nominally to explain to the audience why the players might be serving of the food. The feast becomes a part of the play, just as the play becomes a part of the feast.
Indeed, the play's logic demands that at least some of the actors be waiters. A's claim that "perde, my felowys and I were here / Today whan ye where at dyner / And shewed you a lyttyll disport / Of one Fulgens [...]" (1.10-12), makes no sense, unless players doubled as servers. We know that the food has been cleared by the time part I starts. The likeliest reading is that the lines denote two separate events: the players were "here" during dinner; then they performed a "lyttyll disport." Given that the players would not have dined in the hall with the invited guests, they could only be present if they had served.
In support of the notion that the players acted as cupbearers or carvers at table, which would have resulted in the play being put on hold, we might also turn to A's delayed reappearance at the beginning of Part II:
A: Muche gode do it you everyche one, Ye will not beleve how fast I have gone, For fere that I sholde come to[o] late. No forse, I have lost but a lytyll swete That I have taken upon this hete, My colde corage to abate. (2.1-6)
A is late. He has been rushing. He has only lost a little sweat in this heat (in this rush?), which might forestall him by putting an end to his courage. How-ever, he is ready to perform. Medwall clearly seems to have anticipated that A might miss his cue. As Richard Southern argues, A's delayed entrance could be the result of the difficulty of having to push through the throng of people at the back of the hall in order to reach the playing space. (52) However, A might also have been delayed if he had been helping out during the "void:" "the serving after a meal, or sometimes between meals, of decorative sugar molds and sweetmeats, together with sweet spiced wines and distilled spirits." (53) The "voiding" of the tables, accompanied by the serving of sweets and wine, had been the longstanding way of ending banquets since the Middle Ages. In fact, we know that a similar void takes place at the beginning of the play from A's comments about the merry drinking that the guests engage in, after having "etyn and your fill" (1.2).
The length of time that a void would have gone on would have likely corresponded to the time that it would have taken for the servants to clear the tables, though of course, the guests could also linger over their wine. Medwall would not have been able to anticipate ahead of time the precise duration of the void after the feast; he would only have been able to make a general provision in the play-text, in case his players were delayed. In this context, A's comment about his "swete" could, in fact, be a pun on "sweet," obliquely alluding to the void. Examining his lines again, one could take them to mean that "you will not believe how fast I have worked, fearing that I would miss my cue, much good to do to each and every one of you; no, indeed, I destroyed (54) but a little sweet, which I have taken upon this heat, my cold courage to abate." The character A could have been working alongside the other servants, and like Peter in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, he could have sneaked a sweetmeat: come forth with napkins
come forth with na PETER: Where's Potpan, that he helps not to take away? He shift a trencher, he scrape a trencher! FIRST SERVINGMAN: When good manners shall lie all in one or two men's hands, and they unwashed too, 'tis a foul thing. PETER: Away with the joint-stools, remove the court-cupboard, look to the plate. Good thou, save me a piece of marzipan, and, as thou loves me, let the porter let in Susan Grindstone and Nell. Anthony and Potpan! SECOND SERVINGMAN: Ay, boy, ready. FIRST SERVINGMAN: We cannot be here and there too. Cheerely, boys! Be brisk a while, and the longest liver take all. (I.5.1-13) (55)
I quote this passage in full because it is important to note that here, too, the scene begins with the clearing and stacking of the banquet tables to make room for the masque and the dancing. Peter is desperately looking for the missing Potpan, as the First Serving Man rushes back and forth, putting away the valuable silverware and removing the banquet seating, complaining all the while that he cannot be in two places at once. Given the large number of guests, the Capulets' staff is shorthanded. Peter knows that the masque is about to begin, and that the staff must speedily clear in the middle of the hall. The process isn't going quickly enough. Indeed, a few lines later, Capulet can be heard shouting impatiently: "A hall, a hall! Give room [...]/[...] and turn the tables up!" (1.5.24-26). The cry is both an acknowledgment of the fact that the hall is very crowded and, as J. L. Styan points out, "an announcement of [the] intent [to perform]: 'Ring, a ring!' (from Heptonstall, Yorkshire) or 'Room, a room!' elsewhere [a traditional call in mummings]." (56) Capulet is trying to make his guests aware of the entrance of the masquers and musicians.
As is always the case when a performance is written as an occasional piece, such practical matters have to be considered. Fulgens and Lucres would have likely been performed in front of the raised dais where Morton would have sat at the high table, flanked by important guests. Likely, the hall would have been too small to accommodate both an ongoing performance at its center and the simultaneous serving or clearing of food through the entrances to the kitchen, behind the screen that partitioned off its lower end. (57) The servants would have had to pass through the middle of the performance space to reach both the high table and the side tables. Medwall would have been familiar with this problem from Cambridge Christmas festivities. University plays were also put on in the college halls, which became so crowded that, by the seventeenth century, it had become traditional to appoint "whifflers," "who locked the rowdiest of them [the students] in the porter's lodge and carried out others who had fainted or been trampled in the crowded hall. Despite the presence of the whifflers, there were at least two stabbings of actors and spectators during the festivities, and many broken windows in the hall." (58) Cardinal Morton's dinners were probably much more sedate. However, even in those cases, room had to be made for the performance. Medwall makes the most of the inconvenience by having his characters verbally acknowledge it, incorporating the world of the great hall into his play.
Given the long break between the first and second halves of Fulgens and Lucres--and A's casual reiteration of the first part as "this was the substance of the play" (2.19)--we might be inclined to think of the two performances as independent theatrical events. Nevertheless, the two parts of the play cannot function independently. By "play," A simply means "that which has been played." He elaborates:
I should put you in remembraunce And to your myndis call How Lucres wyll come hyder agayne ... It is the chefe foundacyon Of all thys process, both all and some. (2.52-59)
"Process" is both how Medwall refers to his play (see also 1.63) and how the characters refer to each other's speeches (see Gayus 2.603, Lucres 2.716). Usually "process" refers to an argument, or "a narration, a narrative; an account; a story; a play; a discourse or treatise of any kind; an argument, a reasoned discussion, a disquisition." (59) For Medwall, this meaning, especially as "disquisition," merges with "process" as the action specific to theater: "that which goes on or is carried on; a continuous action, or series of actions or events; a proceeding; (occas.) a course or mode of action, a procedure." (60) As a drama, the great hall play traces a continuous action, from Lucres' desire to have a debate to her final choice of suitor. The first segment offers us only the outcome of the disputation, without providing any kind of explanation.
The "foundation" proper of the argument that makes up the play is the staged debate, which we have not yet seen. (61) We know that Gayus will win the debate but we do not know why. In fact, our view has been complicated by the subplot, which seems completely to dismiss the terms in which the play has framed the question. Formally, then, we require the second segment of the play to reach the conclusion with which the first part began. A says so himself. Replying to B's comment that "he that hathe moste nobles in store / Hym call I the most noble evermore, / For he is most sett by / And I am sure Cornelius is able" (1.1377-80), A points out that "ye, but come hether sone to the ynde of this playe, / And thou shalt se whereto all that wyl wey. / It shall be for they lernynge" (1.1386-88). Essentially, he says that if B will wait for the end of the play, B will see why the matter tended in that direction (towards Gayus). B must wait, he counsels, and not prematurely assume that, having witnessed the first part, he does not need to see the second.
Scholars of two-part plays might learn something from A's patient reminder that the play is not over--and that the second "part" is therefore not an independent dramatic entity, at least not in performance. To B's obstinate retort--"Why might not this matter be endyd nowe?"--A replies that:
Mary, I shall tell the[e] why: Lucres and her father may not attend At this seson to make an ende, So I hard them say. And also it is a curteyse wyse That the partyes may In the meanetyme advyse them well, For eyther of them bothe must tell And shew the best he can To force the goodnes of his owne condycion. (1.1396-1406)
Two arguments are at work here. The play can only end when Lucres and her father decide on one of the suitors. Furthermore, the play can only end after the two suitors have taken sufficient time to prepare themselves to "shew the best he can" and prove their own nobility in a face to face debate. Practical concerns of performance in a great hall are by no means the only reason that the play attempts to "shew" or to provide in full the disputation between Gayus and Cornelius. In The Tudor Play of Mind, Joel Altman lays out the formal reasons that might have led Medwall to "shew," rather than simply rely on B's "telling." As he puts it, noting the interrogative mode of the play's argument, "Fulgens has a inductive movement [...]. In effect, we have participated with Medwall in a search for the pattern of causality lying behind the bare series of events about which we were informed at the outset. In so doing, we have progressed from ignorance and uncertainty about a fact to a reasoned understanding of it and have formulated a tentative and delimited premise based upon our investigation." (62) We might then say that, while the two-part structure is not the result of a formal need to break up the action, but rather of dinner, Medwall nevertheless takes this inconvenience and uses it to shape his "progress," creating a drama in which the "search for causality" formally determines the argument in utramque partem.
Medwall saw an opportunity to please his patron, just as he had seen one in Caxton's epilogic complaint. He could turn the disadvantage of having to make room for dinner into an advantage, if he encouraged the audience to use the time between the first and second halves of the play to participate in the debate regarding nobility for themselves, turning it into a question that could be addressed over dinner. If Thomas More's Utopia is to be believed, Morton "who liked to uncover these qualities, which were those of his own nature," (63) enjoyed heated dinner debates, like the one that takes place between Raphael Hythloday and the unnamed lawyer at the beginning of Book I. He would have appreciated the opportunity to have his guests argue the two sides of an argument, in humanist fashion, especially given that his guest list would have included members of the aristocracy and of the clergy, both men in Henry VII's administration and old, perhaps even Lancastrian friends. We know something about the care with which Morton compiled guest lists from the records of the feast organized for his 1479 installation as Bishop of Ely. (64) He would have done the same for this particular Christmas feast, especially since it seems to have been an important enough occasion to warrant the commissioning of a long humanist play alongside the more traditional mumming (2.126) and "bace dancing" (2.380).
From More, we might also infer the shape that such a debate would have taken. Utopia closely follows the same segmented structure of Fulgens and Lucres. Like Medwall, More breaks his narrative in half, inserting a dinner between Book I and Book II. In addition, Book I recounts an earlier dinner in John Morton's household, in the course of which Hythloday participates in a debate in utramque partem regarding the punishment of thieves. (65) More follows Medwall's practice. He gives his readers a proposition, just as Med-wall gives his audience Lucres' decision, but he delays the marshaling of evidence that would support the claim. The text first establishes that Morton sides with Hythloday. Hythloday points out that men become thieves by being cast out of service: "These noblemen drag around with them a great train of idle servants, who have never learned any trade by which they could earn a living. As soon as their master dies, or they themselves fall ill, they are promptly turned out of doors [...]" (17). The unnamed lawyer present at the feast, who is arguing for more stringent laws against vagrancy and thievery, and who disagrees with Hythloday, tries to reply: "As I [Hythloday] was speaking thus, the lawyer had made ready his answer, choosing the usual style of disputants who are better at summing up than at replying, and who like to show off their memory" (21). However, the character Morton rebuffs him: "Hold your tongue, [...] for you won't be finished in a few words, if this is the way you start. We will spare you the trouble of answering now, and reserve the pleasure of your reply till our next meeting [...]" (21). Morton, cuts off the lawyer. We never get to hear his point of view. Morton, who has been set up as a man "respected for his wisdom and virtue as for his authority" (16) has already made up his mind. Hythloday goes on to tell More that Utopia has solved its thievery problem in just the way he described: "people in that new land are better governed than in the world we know" (37). The proposition is left unexplained. Hythloday ends his narrative, and the text formally breaks in half at the point at which Hythloday is about to dine with More: "So we went in and had lunch. Then we came back to the same spot [...] Peter Giles and I urged Raphael to keep his promise" (38). It is only in describing Utopia in Book II that Hythloday will finally unpack his claim.
Medwall has already informed his audience of the outcome of the play. He has also given the audience time, in the form of a supper break, to consider whether or not Lucres made the right choice. He then provides the humanist contention between Gayus and Cornelius (2.441-705), in the course of which each speaker explains why he is best suited to win Lucres' hand. One would expect the play to end here. The playwright however takes the decision that, in Tiptoft/Montemagno, is ambiguously left up to "ye faders conscript" of the senate, (66) who never reach a consensus, and gives it to Lucres herself, who boldly chooses to marry the virtuous humanist:
For I am fully determined with Godis grace So that to Gayus I wyll condyscend, For in this case I do hym commend As the more noble man, sith he thys wyse By meane of hys virtue to honoure doth aryse. (2.754-58)
Lucres' decision underscores the point that Gayus himself makes: "And as for that pynt this I wott welle, / That both he [Cornelius] and I cam of Adam and Eve. / There is no difference that I can tell / Which makith oon man another to excel / So moche as doth virtue and godely maner" (2.664-68).
Medwall, however, makes one last concession to his audience, nodding in their direction. While, for Morton's benefit, he has his play make the daring claim that birth is inconsequential, he simultaneously attempts not to alienate the rest of the audience, who would have included not just ecclesiastical officials, but noble-born courtiers. He dramatizes his decision to hedge his bets. In Howard Norland's words: "to make the political message more palatable, therefore, Medwall designs an elaborate comic context that mitigates his potentially radical position without undercutting the value system upon which it is based." (67) The play-servant B, amazed at Lucres' choice, exclaims that "I shall witness bere, /[...] How suche a gentylwoman did opynly say / That by a chorles son she wolde set more / Than she would do by a gentylman borne" (2.768-72). Alarmed, Lucres contradicts him:
Nay, syr, than ye report me amys. ... I say evyn as I saide whan I began, That for virtue excellent I will honoure a man Rather than for hys blode if it so fall /... B: Than I put case that a gentilman borne Have godely maners to his birth according. Lucres: I say of hym is to be set gret store. Suche one is worthy more lawde and praysyng Than many of them that hath their begynnyng Of low kynred, ellis God forbede! (2.773-85)
The servants A and B, however, refuse this proviso--that a virtuous aristocrat is more noble than a low-born virtuous man. They dismiss the question altogether. Scoffing, A asks B: "Vertue, what the devyll is that?" (2.842). B replies that he does not know, "but this she said here opynly, / All these folke can tell" (2.847). Medwall, moreover, makes sure that the audience never hears how Gayus and Cornelius respond to the decision. B refuses to deliver the message to Cornelius: "he wyl be starke madd, / Ye, by my trowth, as made as an hare" (2.820-21). He wishes his "mayster had be in Scotland" (2.811). (68) A, too, only seems concerned with hurrying the play along: "Meth-inketh that matter would be wist" (2.872). B replies that indeed, "mary, we may goo hens whan we lyst / No man saith us nay" (2.873-74).
In the end, the audience must decide what the measure of virtue is. By providing a solid outcome to the contest, while also qualifying it, the play attempts to please everyone: humanists like Morton, courtiers in the audience, who may have taken offense at the portrayal of Cornelius, and others who, like Medwall, recognized that, in fact, all good marriages, like all good plays, require solid financial backing, something that, despite differences in moral character, both contenders possess.
In performance, Fulgens and Lucres is a great hall play; it is partly a play of or about a great hall. If the interlude performs so many doublings--two servants, two masters, two wooing plots, two segments--perhaps this is because, in such entertainments, the play-world is always doubled: the spectators themselves become the spectacle. (69) Their desires, their attitudes, their beliefs, even their servants are displayed to themselves. "A and B, in their role as spectators... mirror the role of the actual audience (even if they did not actually reflect them in terms of status), so that, in effect, the audience are watching the process of spectatorship and their own place and function in the performance." (70) It is these things, alongside the plot, that make up the matter of the play and give it a formal shape. In the words of the Beatles' hit song, "I am the Walrus:" "I am he as you are he as you are me / And we are all together." Indeed, in Tudor great hall plays, "neither the costume nor physical position distinguishes spectator from spectacle." (71) Perhaps then, it wouldn't be too misguided to say that if, in 1534, Thomas More entered Lambeth Palace's great hall to play a part in what the Privy Council hoped would be the performance of a faithful servant endorsing a king's new set of commitments, his entrance would not have been very different from his "stepping in" years earlier, as a servant in his patron's humanist play. Perhaps, in 1534, remembering Fulgens and Lucres, More realized that it was he who determined the "measure" (1.1429). He could step out at will.
(1.) The only title that we can ascribe to the work is that of the first printed edition (STC 17778): Here is conteyned a godely interlude of Fulgens Senatoure of Rome. Lucres his doughter. Gayus Flaminius. A Publis. Cornells. Of the disputacyon of nobleness. & is deuyded in two ptyes / to be played at ii. Tymes. Conpyled by mayster Henry Medwall. Late chapelayne to the right reuerent fader in god Johan Morton cardynall & Archebysshop of Caunterbury. The "interlude" was published by John Rastell, in quarto, sometime in the second decade of the sixteenth century (ca. 1512-16). Two leaves survived, as part of John Bagford's scrapbook fragments. They are now held by the British Museum (Harleian MS 5919, fol. 20, n. 98). A single complete copy from the Mostyn Hall library was discovered in 1919, with annotations in a sixteenth-century hand. The copy surfaced on March 20, 1919, at a Sotheby's sale, and was bought by Henry E. Huntington. That copy is now held by the Huntington Library in San Marino, California (62599). All subsequent editions of the play are based on this sole surviving copy.
(2.) See: W. G. Greg, Stationers' Records. Plays to 1616: Nos. 1-349, vol. 1 of A Bibliography of the English Printed Drama to the Restoration (London: Printed for the Bibliographical Society at the University Press, Oxford, 1939), 81; Alfred Har-bage, Annals of English Drama, 975-1700, 3rd edition, revised by Sylvia Wagonheim (London: Routledge, 1989), 16; Martin Wiggins, 1533-1566, vol. 1 of British Drama 1533-1642: A Catalogue (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 18.
(3.) We can attribute John RastelIs mistake to the novelty of the enterprise he had undertaken. As Greg Walker points out, "when at some point between 1512 and 1516 John Rastell printed the 'godely interlude' of Fulgens and Lucrece, he was probably breaking new ground. Prior to this it is likely that no printer had published a dramatic text in English." The Politics of Performance in Early Renaissance Drama (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 10.
(4.) For example, see: Greg Walker, introduction to "Fulgens and Lucres," in Medieval Drama: An Anthology, ed. Greg Walker (Oxford: Blackwell, 2000), 307.
(5.) We do not know exactly what part of the oath offended Thomas More, or even what version of the oath he was administered. Jonathan Gray lays out the problem: "It is possible and even likely that More and Fisher were tendered the same form of the oath as taken in the House of Lords on 31st March [quoted above] or the form of the oath attached to the Commissioners in Sussex dated on 20 April. The section of the these two oaths that most clearly departs from the Act of Succession is the now familiar rejection of any previous oath to the Pope or to any other foreign body." Oaths and the English Reformation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 120.
(6.) William Roper, "Life of Sir Thomas More, Knight," in A Thomas More Source Book, eds. Gerard B. Wegemer and Stephen W. Smith (Washington D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 2004), 19.
(7.) See: Roper, Ins. 16-28. Ibid., 50.
(8.) Suzanne Westfall, " 'A Commontry, a Christmas gambold or a tumbling trick:' Household Theater" in A New History of Early English Drama, ed. John D. Cox and David Scott Kastan, (New York: Columbia University Press, 1997), 41.
(9.) See: Alan H. Nelson, introduction to The Plays of Henry Medwall, by Henry Medwall (Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 1980) 7, 11.
(10.) Ibid., 10-11.
(11.) Ibid., 13.
(12.) Albert Rabil dates the work to 1428-29, around the time of Buonaccorso's death. See: Knowledge, Goodness, and Power: The Debate over Nobility among Quattrocento Italian Humanists, vol. 88 of Medieval & Renaissance Texts & Studies (Bighamton, NY: SUNY Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 1991), 27.
(13.) R. J. Mitchell, John Tiptoft (1427-1470) (London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1938), 213.
(14.) Rabil, 31. Tiptoft may also have consulted a 1449 French translation by Jean Mielot, Philip the Good's secretary (printed in 1478) (31).
(15.) Nelson, 14.
(16.) R. J. Mitchell points out that "it is highly improbable that Tiptoft would have undertaken a commission for Sir John Fastolf, and in any case it must have been made before 1459, when Sir John died. A far more likely author is Sir John's own secretary William of Wyrcester. It is conceivable that Leland, to whom the error can be traced [Comentarii De Scriptoribus, ed. Hall (Oxford, 1709), 480], confused this William of Wyrcester with the Earl of Worcester, for William is known to have made an English version of De Senectute, which he offered to Bishop Waynflete in 1473" (174).
(17.) Marcus Tullius Cicero, hEre begynneth the prohemye vpon the reducynge, both out of latyn as offrensshe in to our englyssh tongue, of the polytyque book named Tullius de senectute..., trans. John Tiptoft (Westminster: 1481), 1 4 (r)
(18.) Russell Rutter, "William Caxton and Literary Patronage," Studies in Philology 84, no. 4 (1987): 440-70, here 463.
(19.) Cicero, 1 3 (r)
(20.) See: Yu-Chiao Wang, "Caxton's Romances and Their Early Tudor Readers," Huntington Library Quarterly 67, no. 2 (2004): 173-88, here 177. See also: Seth Lerer, "William Caxton," in The Cambridge History of Medieval English Literature, ed. David Wallace (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 720-38, here 723.
(21.) See: Margaret Kekewich, "Edward IV, William Caxton, and Literary Patronage in Yorkist England," The Modern Language Review 66, no. 3 (1971): 481-87.
(22.) Morton was appointed both Chancellor of England and Bishop of Ely in 1478. The papal bull of provision arrived on December 24th, 1478. He was consecrated on January 31st 1479 and installed on August 29th. James Bentham, The History of Antiquities of the Conventual and Cathedral Church of Ely (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1771), 179.
(23.) See: Nelson, 7.
(24.) Christopher Harper-Bill, "Morton, John (d. 1500)," in The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, ed. Lawrence Goldman (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/19363 (accessed October 25, 2015).
(25.) Morton progressed from a notary public in 1447, to Bachelor in Civil Law at Oxford in 1448, to Doctor of Civil Law in 1452, to Master of Rolls in 1472, under Edward IV's government, to Archbishop of Canterbury in 1486, to Chancellor of England in 1487, to chancellor of Oxford (1495-1500) and of Cambridge (1499-1500), in the decade in which Medwall wrote and staged his plays.
(26.) Anthony Munday and Henry Chettle, Sir Thomas More, ed. John Jowett (London: Arden Shakespeare), 228.
(27.) Quentin Skinner, Visions of Politics: Volume II, Renaissance Virtues (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 371-72.
(28.) "Sir Thomas More's Utopia and the language of Renaissance Humanism," The Languages of Political Theory in Early Modern Europe, ed. Anthony Pagden, (Cambridge: University of Cambridge, 1987), 123-59, here 135.
(29.) See, for example: Geoffrey Chaucer's "The Wife of Bath's Tale" in the Canterbury Tales, William of Worcester's The Boke of Nobless Addressed to King Edward IV (presented in 1475), The Book of Hawking, Hunting, and Biasing of Arms (1486), John RastelIs Gentleness and Noblity (1529), and Thomas Elyot's Image of Governance (1541).
(30.) Michael J. Bennett, "Education and Advancement" in Fifteenth-Century Attitudes: Perceptions of Society in Late Medieval England, ed. Rosemary Horrox (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 79-96, here 80. On the "new age of ambition," see also: Walker, Medieval Drama, 305; Claire Wright, "Henry Medwall, Fulgens and Lucres" in The Oxford Handbook of Tudor Drama, ed. Thomas Better-idge and Greg Walker (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), 183.
(31.) See the discussion of Erasmus' colloquy, "The False Knight," and the discussion of More's Utopia in Jonathan Dewald, The European Nobility, 1400-1800 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 33-34.
(32.) Tudor Drama and Politics: A Critical Approach to Topical Meaning (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1968), 49.
(33.) Cicero, f7 (v)-f8 (r)
(34.) Westfall, "A Commontry," 49.
(35.) All further citations from Fulgens and Lucres are taken from: "Fulgens and Lucres," in Tudor Plays: An Anthology of Early English Drama, ed. Edmund Creeth (Garden City, NY: Anchor Books, 1966), 1-71.
(36.) As a debate about nobility, Buonaccorso's text was formally divided into parts that underscored the treatise's genre: the academic disputation. In Tiptoft's words, the work provided an "Argument of the declamacyon," "Thanswere of Lucresse vnto her fader," and two orations that showcased two different viewpoints on the question of nobility: 'The Oracion of Publius Cornelius Scipio' and 'The oracion of Gayus Flam-mineus.'" R. J. Mitchell, 215, 217, 225.
(37.) Moeslein calls this practice " 'cinematic dissolve:' when they harrague the spectators, they [characters A and B] are in Morton's hall; they have only to accost Gayus or Lucres, to be translated to Rome (8)." T. W. Craik calls the practice "the imperfect sense of dramatic objectivity." The Tudor Interlude: Stage, Costume, Acting (London: Leicester University Press, 1958), 2. Craik seems to have borrowed the term "imperfect sense of dramatic objectivity" from Frederick S. Boas, An Introduction to Tudor Drama (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1933), 5.
(38.) See: Butler, 169.
(39.) Moeslein, 10.
(40.) This inversion would have been a significant breach of the established household protocol and might signal that the interlude is part of the celebration of the Feast of Fools. Both this and later disruptions of established order seem sanctioned. A hundred lines later, B tells A that "we come to see this play / As farre as we may by the leve of the marshall" (1.148-49).
(41.) It is impossible to tell whether A and B were denoted as such in the manuscript from which John Rastell worked, or whether he himself was responsible for the indexical naming. It is equally likely that the characters acted under their own names as under the names A and B. For Sir Thomas More as B, see: Greg Walker, "Spoiling the Play? The Motif of Dramatic Intrusion in Medwall and Lindsay," Theta VII, Theatre Tudor (2007): 179-96, see 180-81. For a similar argument that A and B are merely placeholder names see: M. Twycross, "The Theatricality of Medieval English Plays," The Cambridge Companion to Medieval English Theatre, ed. R. Beadle (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 37-84.
(43.) In making this argument, I acknowledge that Alan Nelson and Greg Walker have both claimed that Medwall's play dates from the early 1490s, Nelson arguing that "we could date the play to Christmas 1491 and further surmise that More was the intermediary between Medwall and John Rastell, the printer." As is well known, Rastell was Thomas More's brother-in-law, having married his sister, Elizabeth (Nelson 17). In fact, both Nelson and Walker likely take their thesis from A. W. Reed, Early Tudor Drama: Medwall, the Rastells, Heywood, and the More Circle (London: Methuen & Co., 1926), 100. For a dissenting opinion, see M. E. Moeslein, who argues that Fulgens and Lucres was originally written for the 1497 winter festivities, in honor Spanish and Flemish ambassadors visiting the court of Henry VII (68-69). R. A. Godfrey argues that the play text of Fulgens and Lucres is in fact a sedimented text that records an original debate about the nature of nobility, the later addition of the courtship structure and the servant scenes, an even later insertion of the Joan subplot, and a forth revision that adds the play's frame as we now have it. Godfrey argues that the farcing episodes cannot be easily integrated into the play, that the courtship and marriage themes are "critically unresolved" (85), and that the "nervousness with regard to the outcome of the plot of the 'marriage / courtship' drama" (89) cannot be resolved. He argues that the play in its final state reflects the debates surrounding the marriage of Mary Tudor to Charles Brandon in 1515, and that Brandon might have used the play "to influence public opinion" (95). However, as I have tried to explain in this essay, many of the play's formal incongruities can be explained by demands and limitations of performing an entertainment like Fulgens in a great hall. Moreover, there is no hard evidence to suggest Brandon made use of Fulgens and Lucres. While "Brandon almost certainly must have been acquainted with the printer, John Rastell, who had served in the French wars of 1513/14 under Sir Edward Belknap... 'with some responsibility for ordinance.' Brandon had had command of the artillery at Tournai," Rastell also knew More, whose son-in-law he was, and More certainly knew Medwall. Godfrey's secondary argument that the play might have been performed for the benefit of Margaret, Queen of of Scots, Henry VIII' s older sister, on May 19 and 20,1516, at Greenwich, also seems problematic. There is no evidence to tie the elaborate costuming necessary for that entertainment to the production to Fulgens and Lucres. Moreover, like Medwall's Nature, in which the characters complain of being cold and draw closer to the fire (2.512-15), Fulgens and Lucres likely was performed in the winter, since one of the play servants swears "be thys fyre" (1.1303). For Nature see: Alan H. Nelson, The Plays of Henry Medwall (Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 1980). For Godfrey see: R. A. Godfrey, "Nervous Laughter in Henry Medwall's Fulgens and Lucres" Tudor Theatre: Emotion in the Theatre, vol. 3, ed. A. Lascombes (Bern: Peter Lang S.A., 1996), 81-98. A New History of Early English Drama, John D. Cox and David Scott Kastan, eds. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1997), 68-76, see 69.
(44.) What is clearly meant as deceit on A's part, may actually have been the truth, if the actor who played Gayus and the actor who played A were both part of Morton's household.
(45.) Suzanne Westfall also claims that members of Morton's household would have performed the interlude. See: Patrons and Performance: Early Tudor Household Revels (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990), 56.
(46.) For a more extended consideration of Fulgens and Lucres as an attack on the traditional basis of nobility see: Westfall, Patrons and Performance, 166-67, 174.
(47.) We know from the Twelfth Night order in The Second Northumberland Household Book that such accommodations were common. The revels on that occasion were organized "into two entertainments, two gifts of the earl to his household and guests, the first a three-part dramatic spectacle, the second a three-part repast" (16). Ian Lancashire, "Orders for Twelfth Day and Night circa 1515 in the Second Northumberland Household Book" English Literary Renaissance 10, no. 1 (December 1980): 7-45.
(48.) Given performance space limitations, a self-conscious entrance makes sense. For a discussion of the "presse," see: Richard Southern, The Staging of Plays before Shakespeare (New York: Theater Arts Books, 1973), 51.
(49.) Moeslein, 71.
(50.) As Ian Lancashire puts it, quoting "the book of Thordour of the gentillmen Vschers" (fols. 62-78v)," the duties of an usher would have included managing "a ceremony efficiently... what processions, entertainments, and service and food and drink were to take place, what sequence they followed, and which servants carried out each step in the ceremony; and second, as a question of precedence, who should process, give service, and be served in what order" (16-17).
(51.) As M. E. Moeslein puts it: "As A and B begin the performance... the gentleman at table would note that the lad who is addressing him from the playing-area is the same who, not many minutes earlier, was at his elbow with the wine-flagon." The Plays of Henry Medwall: A Critical Edition (New York: Garland, 1981), 269. She cites Gynne Wickham's mention of the "experience of those in attendance at the Bristol Old Vic performance in 1964." See Wickham's: Shakespeare's Dramatic Heritage (London: Routlege and Kegan Paul, 1969), 31-32.
(52.) As Southern further points out, "... if a meal were served in the hall at some special feast, with many quests and their retainers present, then there might not be space for all to find seats, and so a lesser or greater number would have to stand, which was quite customary. But such people would be more likely to stand at the lower end than crowed round near the High Table; it is for this reason, then, that so many appeals are found in the plays for 'way' and 'room' to come in, since the players would have to thrust through the eagerly-watching throng to get from the passage behind the screens to their acting-area on the opened floor" (51).
(53.) Patricia Fumerton, Cultural Aesthetics: Renaissance Literature and the Practice of Social Ornament (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991), 112.
(54.) I am referring to the past tense of the verb "to lose:" "to destroy, ruin, bring to destruction or perdition." Oxford English Dictionary Online, s.v. "lose, v.l," http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/110385
(55.) Stephen Greenblatt, Walter Cohen, Jean E. Howard, and Katherine Eisaman Maus, eds. The Norton Shakespeare. 2nd ed. (New York: WW Norton, 2008), 918-19.
(56.) The English Stage: A History of Drama and Performance (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 5.
(57.) I am following the same logic that leads Ian Lancaster to conclude that the 1516 feast of Epiphany did not include plays or disguisings because the twentieth order (addressed to the gentlemen ushers) of the Second Northumberland Household Book does not mention ushering in and since "the tables seem to have left no room for playing" (17).
(58.) John R. Elliott, "Early Staging in Oxford," A New History of Early English Drama, John D. Cox and David Scott Kastan, eds. (New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1997), 68-76, see 69.
(59.) Definition 4a. Oxford English Dictionary Online, s.v. "process, n.," http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/151794.
(60.) Definition 1. Ibid.
(61.) Joel B. Altman points out that the technical meaning of "foundation" derives from the Latin firmamentum, "which Cicero, the author of the Ad Herennium, and Quintilian designate the chief argument of the defense in the judicial case, but which is often described simply as the main point for adjudication (De inv. 1.19, Ad Her. 1.26, Inst. Or. 3.II.I, 9, 12ff)." The Tudor Play of Mind (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978), 19, n.6.
(63.) This and all following citations are taken from: Thomas More, Utopia: A Norton Critical Edition, ed. and trans. Robert M. Adams (New York: WW. Norton Press, 1991), 16.
(64.) "Sir Thomas Howard was there, a member of the king's household who had family holdings in East Anglia; Sir John Donne and Sir Robert Chamberlain, also Yorkists, were there; but Sir William Brandon, who had been Henry VIs banner bearer, and John Fortescu, also Lancastrian, and pardoned with Morton, were there a well." Anne Brennen, "Intricate Subtleties: Entertainment at Bishop Morton's Installation Feast," Records of Early English Drama 22, no. 2 (1997): 2-11, 5.
(65.) Perhaps the pair of unemployed ignorant servants, A and B, who deceitfully attempt to enter service, inspired Utopia's conversation about thievery. But, even if this is not the case, More seems to be imitating the types of debates that he would have witnessed in Morton's household. The character More tells Hythloday that, "as you spoke, I seemed to be a child and in my own native land once more, through the pleasant recollection of that cardinal in whose court I was brought up as a lad" (More, 27).
(66.) Cicero, f. 47v.
(67.) Drama in Early Tudor Britain, 1485-1558 (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1995), 235.
(68.) This could be an allusion either to the October 17, 1491 Act that banished all Scots from England (37-38) or to the renewal of the Scottish five year truce at Coldstream, in December 1491 (39). See: Agnes Conway, Henry VII's Relations with Scotland and Ireland, 1485-1498 (Cambridge: Cambrige University Press, 1932, reissued 2013).
(69.) Westfall, "A Commontry," 53.
(70.) Wright, 186.
(71.) Westfall,'A Commontry," 53.
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|Publication:||Medieval and Renaissance Drama in England|
|Article Type:||Critical essay|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2018|
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