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Secular Medieval Drama

Abstract and Keywords

This article examines the nature of secular medieval drama in England. It explains that the medieval Mystery Cycles, with their vibrant presentation of scriptural narrative, dominate discussion of medieval drama. The presentation of ecclesiastical power in the cycles is strategically anachronistic and aligned with the oppressive power of biblical tyrants such as Herod. This article also comments on Henry Medwall's Fulgens and Lucres.

Keywords: secular medieval drama, England, Mystery Cycles, scriptural narrative, ecclesiastical power, Henry Medwall, Fulgens and Lucres

The Nature of Medieval Drama

The medieval Mystery Cycles, with their vibrant presentation of scriptural narrative, dominate discussion of medieval drama. Together with the Morality Plays, which do not tell scriptural stories but which consider the human soul as it falls into sin and is then redeemed, and the Saints' Plays, which stage a similar narrative in the life of a named saint, the cycles contribute to a picture of medieval drama as fundamentally religious—until, that is, the 1490s, when Henry Medwall wrote Fulgens and Lucres, the first secular play in English, and the first of a string of ‘secular’ Tudor interludes. But, as James Simpson argues, the development of the secular theatre is not, as has often been thought, ‘a moment of liberation from a religious theatre governed by an oppressive Church’—this liberation had already largely occurred in the Mystery Plays, through a presentation of scriptural narrative which critiqued royal and episcopal abuse of power.1 The presentation of ecclesiastical power in the cycles is strategically anachronistic and aligned with the oppressive power of biblical tyrants like Herod: regimes ecclesiastical and secular, biblical and contemporary are thus exposed all together. In addition, the Mystery Cycles' dependence for their performance on the firm power of civic authority has long been recognized.2 It is difficult to exclude the ‘secular’ from medieval drama.

(p. 385)

It is difficult, too, to exclude the religious from the secular. Fulgens and Lucres may be claimed as the ‘earliest surviving purely secular play in English’ by virtue of its humanist roots and classical theme:3 Lucres, the daughter of a senator, must choose between two suitors––Cornelius, a man of great fortune and ancestry, and Gayus, a man of low birth and moderate fortune who has trained himself in virtue and service to the State. To choose her husband, Lucres must decide whether nobility lies in wealth and birth or in virtue. Medwall's play is based on a 1428 Latin treatise by Buonaccorso de Montemagna, the Controversia de vera nobilitate, which was popular in Italy; Duke Philip the Good had the treatise translated into French and it was quickly also popular at the Burgundian court. But Buonaccorso's characters are heavily allegorized: for the humanist reader, Lucres, the reward, is secular power, but Fulgens, her father, is a figure of divine ordinance. Thus religious allegory informs the sources of Fulgens and Lucres, which is furthermore a profoundly moral work, by a cleric.

Nonetheless, Medwall's play is predominantly secular: his treatment of his characters is not allegorical, and his classical theme is good conduct in this world as opposed to preparation for the life hereafter. John Tiptoft translated the Controversia into English as The Declamacion of Noblesse, which in 1481 was popular enough to become one of the first products of Caxton's new press. In the 1490s, in the early years of Henry VII's reign, Medwall dramatized its nobility debate in a new, very particular, context: it is possible that the first performance of Fulgens was associated with negotiations for the proposed marriage of Prince Arthur and Katherine of Aragon; it is certain that Fulgens's ‘nobility debate’ would have had strong resonance at the court of Henry VII and his ‘new men’, the gentry‐born counsellors whom the king preferred above the established nobility.4 The circumstances of the play's production are thus also fundamentally secular, as are the material circumstances of its dissemination on the page: not only was its source disseminated through the secular press, but Fulgens itself survives only in a printed edition by Rastell of between 1512 and 1516.5 While the cycle plays are preserved only in manuscript, Medwall's play was printed and marketed commercially.6

Secular Dramaturgy

Does this secular narrative—moral, certainly, and the work of a cleric, but concerned with worldly morality—exhibit also a distinctively secular dramaturgy? This will be the central (p. 386) question explored in this chapter. Of course, dramaturgy cannot be entirely separated from a play's themes, nor from the circumstances of production: perhaps for this reason James Simpson chooses to categorize medieval drama principally as ‘amateur’ or ‘professional’:

One [dramatic] form is non‐metropolitan, amateur, played in the street, and as critical of its own exercise of power as it is of royal and episcopal power; Tudor household drama is, by contrast, metropolitan, professional, played indoors, and extremely cautious under the eyes of its powerful patrons.7

Simpson's study of dramatic literature takes him to 1547, which is some years beyond the scope of this book, but he makes a strong case for the continuities between one type of Tudor ‘interlude’—the instructional and comic—and the ‘medieval morality play’: while the content of the interlude may differ from that of the morality, the interludes often exhibit a comic structure of rise–fall–recovery taken directly from the moralities, ‘from a medieval theatre of instruction, which is also a professional troupe theatre’.8 Simpson notes further that, whereas most types of literature exhibit ‘total rupture’ at the Reformation, drama is marked more by its post‐Reformation continuities:9 he articulates a common scholarly difficulty with the categorization of drama within the boundaries of the ‘medieval’ and the ‘early modern’ as defined by historical events or in relation to other forms of writing.

Thus the title of this chapter is fully problematized: neither the ‘secular’ nor the ‘medieval’ in ‘secular medieval drama’ can be decisively defined. This chapter will, by focusing on Fulgens and Lucres, occupy the fifteenth century as far as possible, but it will also make reference to plays of the sixteenth century, since it is from the sixteenth century that most household drama survives. This chapter will also invoke some plays which, though treating religious rather than secular subject‐matter, share with Fulgens its status as printed text, or small troupe play, or household drama.

The comic instructional mode does not characterize Fulgens and Lucres : rather, Medwall's play falls into Simpson's alternative subsection of Tudor interlude, the debate. Both instructional and debate interludes are produced by and addressed to ‘coterie’ audiences ‘whose consciousness is never far from the business of gaining royal favour’.10 The appeal to royal favour may be a rather cynical gloss on the enquiry into moral living in this world, though it seems a likely one: an audience is, however, unlikely ever to be uni‐conscious. Nonetheless, an audience preoccupied even in part with ambition and sycophancy would certainly contribute to the ‘claustrophobic’ sense which Simpson finds in the debate plays and attributes to their concern with ‘promotion within closely defined institutional spaces’.11 While the claustrophobia may be in the mind of the audience, the institutional spaces are figurative but also literal, since interludes like Fulgens and Lucres were performed in the great halls of great men, on great occasions.12

(p. 387)

My consideration of medieval secular dramaturgy will focus on dramatic manipulations of place, and also of time. Both are curiously compromised in Fulgens and Lucres. The play opens with a direct address to the audience from a character, nominated simply ‘A’, who appears to be a member of the household and who draws attention to the feast which the household/audience have just been enjoying—for Fulgens and Lucres is written to be performed as the accompaniment to a meal.

  • A, for Goddis will,
  • What meane ye, syrs, to stond so still?
  • Have not ye etyn and your fill
  • And payd no thinge therfore? (ll. 1–4)

A comments that the audience falls still, and also silent—‘I mervayle moche…there is no wordes amonge this presse’ (ll. 14–17)—while apparently oblivious to the fact that it is he, by speaking as an actor, who has silenced the household, according to conventions of audience behaviour. A does not know he is an actor, and he is therefore also unaware that the household are an audience—to him they are still diners in the great hall. He knows that there is going to be a play, however, and, when another man, ‘B’, enters, he incorrectly assumes that he is part of the play. Since B is not one of the diners, his entrance into a playing‐space suggests he must be an actor (the Latin stage direction is the theatrically conventional ‘Intrat B’), an impression reinforced by the way B is dressed:

  • Ther is so myche nyce array
  • Amonges these galandis now aday
  • That a man shall not lightly
  • Know a player from a nother man. (ll. 53–6)

Although B's entrance into the playing‐space seems to A to be part of the action, the space is still ‘here’, the hall, and the time is still ‘now’, a present in which gallants dress as finely as players. B is native to the time but perhaps not the place, which he seems to differentiate from ‘the parish where I abide’ (l. 169). The actual play, he explains, will be set at the time of the Roman Empire's flowering (l. 170); its place will be Rome, and B argues that this fact should forestall any objection to the action of the play from the audience:

  • I trow here is no man of the kyn or sede
  • Of either partie, for why they were bore
  • In the cytie of Rome (ll. 178–80)

A's confusion as to the moment at which ‘the play’ begins is later mirrored in his uncertainty as to the moment of its ending: ‘Why then, is the play all do?’ (l. 2305). A's doubts indicate that a play may not begin and end where expected, but nonetheless assert an audience's expectation of a play's having a beginning and an end which contain it within a distinct—artificial—space and time. It is all the more intriguing, then, that when B wishes to assert that nobody ‘here’, that is, among the diners in the hall, has any reason to object to the action of the play, he takes as his defence not the fictionality of the play's action, but its remoteness of place.

(p. 388)

Perhaps the remoteness of fiction would prevent A and B getting involved in the play—the remoteness of time does not. The two talk their way into the employment of Lucres's two suitors, and are soon involved in carrying messages between the Ancient Romans, and in competing over the hand of Lucres's Ancilla—by way of subplot, the first in English drama: this competition takes the form of a singing contest, a wrestling match, and a round of ‘farte pryke in cule’, a parody of a joust in which the combatants are bound into a squatting position with poles tied between their legs to serve as spears.13 Medwall thus incorporates, in his humanist Roman debate, scripted enactments of a range of popular entertainments which are very much of his own time and place, and far from learned or noble.

A and B continue to be aware that they are in a dining hall, performing a play, with an audience in the here and now: the Ancient Romans simultaneously occupy a very different reality but apparently do not mind the gap. At one elusive moment, A apparently tries to draw Gayus's attention to the reality outside the play:

  • A…some tyme ye knewe me,
  • Though it be now oute of youre remembraunce (ll. 604–5)

A seems here to allude to his pre‐play acquaintance with the Gayus actor, but Gayus's reaction seems at once uncomprehending and untroubled:

  • Gayus: By my fayth it may well be,
  • But never the lesse I thanke thee. (ll. 606–7)

The situation is reversed when Lucres questions A about his name and the identity of his master. The questions apparently require A to answer with relation to Lucres's time and space, Ancient Rome, in which, as B has already pointed out, no one in the dining hall has any part. Consequently, A cannot answer:

Et scalpens caput post modicum intervallum dicat:14

  • ‘By this light, I have forgotten!’ (l. 1780).

The stage direction gives charming detail, and, in calling for a brief interval before A's speech, echoes an earlier stage direction indicating Lucres's response to Fulgens's injunction that she should resolve the question of her marriage herself:

Et facta aliqua pausatione, dicat Lucres:15

  • Lucres: I wyll not dysclaunder nor blame no man,
  • But nevertheless, by that I here saye,
  • Pore maydens be dissayved now and than.
  • So greate dyssemblynge now a daye
  • There is…

(ll. 471–6)

(p. 389) Possibly, Lucres is considering the plight of the Ancient Roman virgin, but her ‘now a daye’ recalls the ‘nowadays’ of A's comment on the dress of the modern‐day gallant: the impression that Lucres is in fact addressing the situation of maidens contemporary with, perhaps among, her audience is reinforced by the fact that she appears to be speaking directly to the audience at this point. The ‘brief pause’ before Lucres speaks, like A's brief pause and head‐scratching, is a significant interval: for all its brevity, it carries the actors between the age of imperial Rome and the age of the Tudor household drama.

The apparently peaceful but sometimes self‐consciously problematized coexistence of two temporal settings is matched by an unruffled spatial bilocation. A tells Gayus that he has no more friends ‘within this hall’ (l. 631): Gayus, thirty lines later, reflects that there is no one better born than Cornelius ‘within all this cyte’ (l. 660). The city in question is Rome, and Cornelius is sure of the setting for the speech proclaiming his nobility—‘all this londe Of Italy’ (ll. 1954–5): A, on the other hand, is definitely in England, and declares himself able to sing ‘As well as ony man in Kent’ (l. 1106). B continues to be aware of the audience: he is ashamed that the Ancilla beats him ‘Before as many as here be present’ (l. 1329), and also assures Gayus that ‘this honorable audyence’ will be present at his debate with Cornelius (l. 1313)—as indeed the audience will be, though not in Ancient Rome. What are the implications of this curious sense of time and space to a staging of the play?

The fluidity which Fulgens and Lucres seems to require in its use of space might suggest the locus and platea staging which Robert Weimann found to be characteristic of medieval theatre, and which, he argues, exerted profound influence on the use of space on the early modern stage.16 Janette Dillon writes:

The two terms denote two interconnected ways of using space. While the place or platea is basically an open space, the locus can be literally a scaffold, but can also be any specifically demarcated space or architectural feature [which]…can represent a particular location, such as a house, a temple, a country, heaven or hell…whereas a locus always represents, for a given stretch of time, a specific location, the platea is essentially fluid and frequently non‐representational. It is not tied to the illusion, to the fictional places where the drama is set, but is often predominantly an actors' space…in which performance can be recognised as performance rather than as the fiction it intermittently seeks to represent.17

As an example, Dillon discusses the Croxton Play of the Sacrament, a play which is neither Mystery nor Morality, which may or may not be early Tudor (it was written some time between 1461 and 1520), and which Simpson considers as like the Tudor interlude and unlike the cycle drama in that its focus is on correct belief, not good works.18 In this play, a Jewish merchant, Jonathas, pays a Christian merchant, Aristorius, to steal the eucharistic wafer from church: Jonathas and his fellow Jews then stab the wafer and subject it to various forms of torture to test the doctrine that it is Christ's body. The wafer bleeds, and an apparition of the crucified Christ appears, whereupon the Jews are converted and Aristorius repents. There are a number of fixed, defined locations—the (p. 390) church, from which the wafer is stolen and into which the converted Jews process, Aristorius's house, Jonathas's house, all of which are part of the conversion narrative which, we are told, took place in Eraclea, Aragon, in 1461: between these locations, however, the platea is occupied by a comic doctor, Master Brundycche of Brabant, who lives ‘a little beside Babwell Mill’, near Bury St Edmunds, and who talks to the audience about the ailments of the ‘grete congregacyon’ who are ‘here’ (l. 521)19—the contemporary, Croxton audience.

Clearly this is in many ways similar to the temporal and spatial duality of Fulgens and Lucres, in that A and B parallel both Master Brundycche's participation in the time and space of the audience and his capacity to talk to characters in an alternative time and space of ‘the play’. Nonetheless Medwall's interlude does not seem entirely to function as a locus and platea play, because the locus is too vague to be given the necessary visual focus. Publius and Cornelius are in Ancient Rome, but that's too big for a play. There is no house nor church nor other fixed location established within the city of Rome, and the action happens generally ‘in the city’, as generally ‘in the hall’. When Fulgens meets Cornelius, he asserts that ‘this is the oure that ye and I Apoyntid here to mete’ (ll. 296–7)—the time and place are correct, but, for the audience, unnominated: deixis can be at once precise and ambiguous. A tells B that Lucres has made an appointment to meet Cornelius ‘here Sone, in the evynyng aboute suppere’ (ll. 1359–60): the meeting must certainly be in Ancient Rome, but is clearly appointed to coincide with mealtime in the Tudor great hall, where it will be witnessed. Furthermore, apart from these two fixed meetings, all the Romans in Fulgens and Lucres seem only to appear in the playing space on their way somewhere else. Fulgens leaves Cornelius and goes off to talk to Lucres (ll. 343–4); Cornelius then goes off to find himself a serving man (l. 359); Fulgens leaves Lucres to attend to his ‘bysynes at whome’ (l. 466); the Ancilla encounters B as she is on her way to find Gayus (ll. 861–3); A overhears news about Cornelius ‘as I brought my mayster on hys way’ (l. 1354), and so on. There is of course nothing unusual, for a modern audience, in a character making an exit because, within the narrative of the play, he needs to go to another place: this is, however, very different from the locus and platea staging of Croxton in which locations are realized and movement between them is scripted as part of the action—sometimes within the lines, as when the Clericus goes to seek a rich merchant and narrates: ‘Now wyll I walke by thes pathes wyde’ (l. 65), and sometimes in the stage directions: ‘Here shall the Jewe merchaunt and his men come to þe Cristen merchaunte’ (l. 185 s.d.). Locus and platea staging shows the audience fixed points, and incorporates into its action the movement between them; Fulgens and Lucres does not show the audience the destinations of its characters, and dramatizes only a tiny portion, a few moments, on each of their journeys back and forth.

This indeterminacy of location is perhaps the reason for Lucres's astonishment when Gayus finds her: ‘How wyste he For to fynde me here?’ Gayus seems to assert that he finds her not because he knows where to look, but because he is dedicated: (p. 391) ‘He that lysteth to do his dylygence…. At the laste he may come to your presence’ (ll. 485–7). Because he loves her, he will find her ‘wher so ever ye go’ (l. 484). It is not places but people who are sought in Fulgens and Lucres. Asked where he dwells, A replies that he lacks a master—a reply which both reflects the reality of the servant who is dependent on a master for shelter, and indicates a definition of space according to the people occupying it. Unsurprisingly, then, Gayus tells A to ‘Go thy waye unto Lucres’ (l. 674), not Lucres's house, or a particular place where she might be found: A later realizes guiltily that he should have gone ‘to Lucres…Thetherwarde I was bent’ (ll. 807–9), and ‘thetherwarde’ demonstrates a conflation of person and location.

Place and Time in Magnyfycence

What is the purpose of Fulgens's curious dramaturgy of place and time? Dillon states that a metonymic identification of person with place is a common aspect of locus and platea staging: a scaffold can represent, for example, ‘the place of Covetousness’, ‘which is a conceptual rather than a properly physical place’.20 Of course, Covetousness is an allegorical figure; possibly this aspect of the presentation hints at the allegorical roots of Medwall's narrative—and this impression is reinforced by comparison with the explicitly allegorized Magnyfycence of John Skelton. Magnyfycence was written, probably, in 1519–20 and, probably, as veiled advice to King Henry VIII about his treatment of the French minions who were seen as corrupting his court. The prince, Magnyfycence, is tricked by Fansy into admitting a series of Vice figures into his court: the Vices persuade Magnyfycence to ignore the advice of his trusted counsellor, Measure, and the prince is brought to ruin, only to be rescued and restored by Good Hope. Like Fulgens, it is small‐troupe, household drama, also disseminated in print (it was printed by William Rastell around 1530): although its structure is that of the instructional morality, its secular, political intent is clear from the character of its Vices, who are not the Seven Deadly Sins but rather more specific and satirical personifications of Courtly Abusyon, Clokyd Colusyon, and so on.

Magnyfycence does not explicitly display bilocation, but it has, like Fulgens, a curiously double sense of time and place. In Magnyfycence, this stems from the play's double identity as political satire and moral allegory. The palace of Magnyfycence constitutes an important conceptual location, but it is never presented, and what happens there is narrated to the audience by the Vices, who seem always to be on their way somewhere: usually they are going to the Palace, or heading from it for a wild night on the tiles. It is this sense of motion which defines place in (p. 392) Magnyfycence—but only for the Vices. The Vices appear to be ‘in the street’, a street which leads to and from the palace, and which separates the prince from the publican. Presumably, when the play was staged in a Tudor hall, the Vices would consistently exit through the same door when going to the palace: the sense of motion is accelerated by the fact that cast doubling (if, as is thought, there were five actors playing all the different roles) would necessitate the same actor passing repeatedly through the door in different roles.

But that door never becomes fully a locus representing an entrance to the palace, because the staging of characters other than the Vices resists the sense of ‘street’ outside it. When Welthfull Felycyte meets Lyberty, Lyberty declares that the meeting was ‘apoynted’, but says nothing about the time or place appointed for the meeting (ll. 24–5).21 The two, soon joined by Measure, conduct a philosophical discussion about the correct relationships among measure, wealth, and liberty, with reference to Horace: the scene is not one of street‐talk. These characters discuss the abstractions which they simultaneously represent: because they are allegorical figures, their presence or absence, proximity to or distance from each other, carry at least as much meaning as the words they speak. ‘Where wonnys Welthe?’, asks Welthfull Felycyte (l. 22): ‘whens come ye?’, asks Felycyte of Lyberte (l. 29). No place is ever named in response: the answer is not spoken, but enacted, for the grouping of Lyberty, Welthfull Felycyte, and Measure onstage together is itself the answer, and the non‐specificity of place carries the general nature of the teaching that these three things of necessity come together.

The Vices in Magnyfycence are sometimes comically confused and directionless, as when Counterfet Countenaunce, eager to look busy about getting rid of Measure, demands ‘my botes and my spores’ (l. 570). Crafty Conveyaunce's puzzled question ‘In all this hast whether wyll ye ryde?’ meets the unsatisfactory response: ‘I trowe it shall not nede to abyde’ (ll. 570–1). Similarly, Fansy is ‘Bysy, bysy, and ever bysy’ (l. 1038). But this is busy‐ness without moral direction, not the generalized location which characterizes moments of virtue. The Vices invoke specific times and places—contemporary ‘Tyburn’, especially, and the local taverns, but also Pountesse, Calais, Cockermouth, everything from the Tyne to the Trent—and these invocations root them in the here and now of contemporary satire.

Specificity of location seems an aspect of Vice in late medieval drama. Aristorius, the corrupt Christian merchant, in the speech which opens the Croxton Play of the Sacrament offers a loosely alphabetical list of all the places in the world in which his fame has spread: and place and profit are connected, for his fame is based on his wealth—‘of all Aragon I am most mighty of sylver and of gold’ (l. 7), and his ultimate expression of wealth is that he would unhesitatingly buy a whole country—‘and yt wer a counter to by now wold I nat wond!’ (l. 8). The speech is chillingly suggestive of the Mystery Cycle's scene of Christ's temptation by Satan. In N‐Town the same (p. 393) connection is made between place and corrupt profit as Satan tempts Christ with everything he can give him:

  • Turne thee now and this syde, and se here Lumbardye,
  • Of spycery ther growth many an hyndryd balys;
  • Archas and Aragon and grett Almonye;
  • Parys and Portyngale and the town of Galys;
  • Pownteys and poperynge and also Pycardye…(ll. 170–4, Play 23)22

Satan tells Christ to ‘see’ these places: it is as if he is trying to assert a series of rich and exotic loci all of which ‘longyth to’ him (l. 178). But Christ resists temptation by asserting the generalized platea, or ‘plas’:

  • Go abak, þu flowle Sathanas!
  • In Holy Scrypture wretyn it is,
  • Thi Lorde God to wurchipp in every plas (ll. 183–5)

In the Mystery Cycles, the capacity of the platea to signify the here and now has heavy theological significance. The locus would keep a historical Christ remote in time and place from his audience—it has been shown that, in Fulgens, B argues that an audience can have no vested interest in action performed in a remote place. But in cycle drama, Christ can step into the platea, and Christ in the platea is Christ in the same time and place as the audience, offering the audience contact with a present divinity.

Because Magnyfycence shares an allegorical mode with the Morality Plays, the broader action of Magnyfycence takes place ‘in a virtual space, for the most part outside of time and geography’,23 as Walker has written of the Morality Play: at the same time, if the Moralities display, through the appearance of Vices such as ‘Nowadays’, a ‘theologically grounded distrust of the modern’,24 Magnyfycence displays a secular, politically grounded distrust of the modern through its carefully located Vices. The political grounding is important, however, because it is what makes the dramaturgy of space and time in Magnyfycence distinctive.

Magnyfycence and Fulgens and Lucres offer political comment by staging antique or allegorical fables in the halls of the politically powerful.25 The halls—whether royal halls, noblemen's halls, or guild halls—are not incidental. They are not merely empty spaces, in which a scaffold or stage, or even just a character's assertion of location, creates an alternative space for the period of the play; they are themselves the set. The audience must be led to respond to all of the space in the hall in the same way: if one area or feature of the hall were established as a separate locus, then action which occurred there might appear to differ in its significance from other action, when in fact the political message depends on everything signifying equally within the great hall. So, when the Vices in Magnyfycence try to assert specific, other locations, they are seeking to defeat the play's method of instruction, and indeed the instruction itself. Even the (p. 394) urgency of their movement to and from the ‘offstage’ palace of Magnyfycence undermines the truth of the political allegory, that the drama is actually what is happening in the great hall. In Fulgens, A and B, like Vices, also allude to specific, other, contemporary locations (York, Kent) and engage in contemporary folk games. But most importantly, by their discussion of ‘the play’, they try to assert the separation of the play from life in the great hall, and thus, Vice‐like, defeat instruction.

The hall in which A has no more friends is the same as the city in which no one is nobler born than Cornelius: the audience must realize this for the play's political message to get across. The play is concerned with the definition of virtuous behaviour in a political and social context, and with the nature of the contract between the nobleman and the man who serves him. It is vital that the great hall audience—of the served and the serving—do not feel, as B suggests at the beginning of the play, that they need not object to the action of Fulgens and Lucres because it happened somewhere else: rather, the audience must see, as B states much later, that the play involves and concerns them. B, as aching member, realizes that the play and the audience are one, and the play will only end when he and A leave, when the audience/household leave the playing‐space/dining hall: ‘and we were ons go It were do straight wey’ (ll. 2306–7).


Dillon, Janette (2006), The Cambridge Introduction to Early English Theatre (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).Find this resource:

    Emmerson, R. K. (2005), ‘Dramatic History: On the Diachronic and Synchronic in the Study of Early English Drama, Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies, 35, 39–66.Find this resource:

      Evershed, Elizabeth (2005), ‘Meet for Merchants? Some Implications of Situating Skelton's Magnyfycence at the Merchant Tailors' Hall’, Medieval English Theatre, 27: 69–85.Find this resource:

        King, Pamela (2006), The York Mystery Cycle and the Worship of the City (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer).Find this resource:

          Lexton, Ruth (2008), ‘Henry Medwall's Fulgens and Lucres and the Question of Nobility Under Henry VII’, in Linda Clark (ed.), The Fifteenth Century, viii. Rule, Redemption and Representations in Late Medieval England and France (Woodbridge: Boydell Press), 163–82.Find this resource:

            Meredith, Peter, and Meg Twycross (1984), ‘“Farte Pryke in Cule” and Cockfighting’, Medieval English Theatre, 6: 30–9.Find this resource:

              Scattergood, John (1993), ‘Skelton's Magnyfycence and the Tudor Royal Household’, Medieval English Theatre, 15: 21–48.Find this resource:

                Simpson, James (2002), Reform and Cultural Revolution: The Oxford English Literary History, ii. 1350–1547 (Oxford: Oxford University Press).Find this resource:

                  ——  (2005), ‘Not the Last Word’, JMEMS, 35, 111–19.Find this resource:

                    Spector, Stephen (ed.) (1991), The N‐Town Play (2 vols. EETS SS 11; Oxford: Oxford University Press for the Early English Text Society).Find this resource:

                      Walker, Greg (1998), Politics of Performance (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).Find this resource:

                        —— (ed.) (2000), Medieval Drama: An Anthology (Oxford: Blackwell).Find this resource:

                          Weimann, Robert (1978), Shakespeare and the Popular Tradition in the Theater: Studies in the Social Dimension of Dramatic Form and Function (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press).Find this resource:

                            —— (2000), Author's Pen and Actor's Voice: Playing and Writing in Shakespeare's Theatre, ed. Helen Higbee and William West (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).Find this resource:


                              (1) Simpson (2002: 518).

                              (2) See, most recently and eloquently, King (2006).

                              (3) See Walker (2000: 305). Subsequent line references to Fulgens and Lucres are to the edn. in this anthology.

                              (4) Lexton (2008) engages the play in its historical context.

                              (5) STC 17778; the single surviving complete copy is held in the Huntington Library, San Marino, Calif. (Huntington Library 62599).

                              (6) Walker (1998) discusses the printing of secular drama; see esp. ch. 1.

                              (7) Simpson (2002: 553) See also Emmerson (2005: 53) and Simpson (2005: 117).

                              (8) Simpson (2002: 554) 554.

                              (9) Ibid.

                              (10) Ibid. 549.

                              (12) Emerson (2005: 55) restates the traditional view that Fulgens was staged at Lambeth Palace, under the patronage of Cardinal Morton: See ‘Dramatic History’, p. 55. However, there is no solid evidence to support this view.

                              (13) For further details of this curious game, see Meredith and Twycross (1984)..

                              (14) ‘And, scratching his head, let him a little later say’.

                              (15) ‘And after a certain pause, Lucres shall say’.

                              (16) See Weimann (1978, 2000).

                              (17) Dillon (2006: 4–5).

                              (18) Simpson (2002: 557).

                              (19) Line references are to the edn. of the play in Walker (2000).

                              (20) Dillon (2006: 4).

                              (21) Line references are to the edn. of the play in Walker (2000).

                              (22) Line references are to Spector (1991).

                              (23) Walker (2000: 210).

                              (25) For examples of discussion see Scattergood (1993); Evershed (2005).