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More.
What! for a play, you mean?
Whom do ye serve ?

Player.
My Lord Cardinal's grace.

More.
My Lord Cardinal's players ! Now, trust me, welcome!
You happen hither in a lucky time,
To pleasure me, and benefit yourselves.
The Mayor of London and some Aldermen,
His lady and their wives, are my kind guests
This night at supper. Now, to have a play
Before the banquet will be excellent.
I prithee, tell me, what plays have ye?

Player. Divers, my lord : 'The Cradle of Security,' • Hit the Nail o'th' Head,' 'Impatient Poverty,' “The Play of Four P's,' 'Dives and Lazarus,' 'Lusty Juventus,' and 'The Marriage of Wit and Wisdom.'

So the Player runs through his repertory. The name of the last hits More's mood, and he rejoins :

“The Marriage of Wit and Wisdom !' That, my lads,
I'll none but that ! The theme is very good,
And may maintain a liberal argument.
We 'll see how Master-poet plays his part,
And whether Wit or Wisdom grace his art.
Go, make him drink, and all his fellows too.
How many are ye?

Player.
Four men and a boy.

More.
But one boy? Then I see,
There 's but few women in the play.

Player.
Three, my lord ; Dame Science, Lady Vanity,
And Wisdom-she herself.

MORE AND THE PLAYERS.

179

More.
And one boy play them all? By 'r Lady, he 's loaden !
Well, my good fellows, get ye strait together,
And make ye ready with what haste ye may.
Provide their supper 'gainst the play be done,
Else we shall stay our guests here overlong.
Make haste, I pray ye.

Player.
We will, my lord.

She ap

The Chancellor now tells his wife that the Lord Cardinal's Players have luckily turned up. proves of their engagement. They both receive their guests, and seat them for the Interlude. At this point the chief player, dressed as the Vice, appears, and begs for a few minutes' respite. More addresses him :

More. How now ! What 's the matter?

Vice. We would desire your honour but to stay a little. One of my fellows is but run to Oagles for a long beard for young Wit, and he 'll be here presently.

More. A long beard for young Wit! Why, man, he may be without a beard till he comes to marriage, for wit goes not all by the hair. When comes Wit in ?

Vice. In the second scene, next to the Prologue, my lord.

More. Why, play on till that scene comes, and by that time Wit's beard will be grown, or else the fellow returned with it. And what part playest thou ?

Vice. Inclination, the Vice, my lord.

More. Grammercy! Now I may take the Vice if I list; and wherefore hast thou that bridle in thy hand?

Vice. I must be bridled anon, my lord.

a

They exchange a few words about the purpose of the

a play ; and then the scene opens.

It is the first act of ‘Lusty Juventus,' adapted with retrenchments. Inclination and Lady Vanity are in the course of seducing Wit, when the Vice suddenly pulls up with :

Is Luggins yet come with the beard ?

Enter another Player.

No, faith, he is not come : alas ! what shall we do?

The Vice, who is the driver of the team, expresses the dislocation of the whole company by this unforeseen accident :

Forsooth, we can go no further till our fellow Luggins come ; for he plays Good Counsel, and now he should enter, to admonish Wit that this is Lady Vanity and not Lady Wisdom.

More throws himself into the breach, and from his place before the stage undertakes to play the part of Good Counsel, which he does excellently well in default of Luggins. When Luggins at length appears with the beard, the Vice turns to his lordship:

Oh, my lord, he is come.

Now we shall go forward.

But the Chancellor thinks it is about time to conduct his guests to the banquet chamber. So the scene breaks up, and the players are left to altercate about this hitch in their arrangements. They pay due compliments to More's ready wit :

Do ye hear, fellows? Would not my lord make a rare player ? Oh, he would uphold a company beyond all. Ho! better than Mason among the King's Players ! Did ye mark how extemprically he fell to the matter, and spake Luggins's part almost as it is in the very book set down?

While they are so discoursing, a serving man enters with the news that More is called to Court, and that he bids the players take eight angels, and, after they have supped, retire. The fellow doles the money out short of twenty shillings, taking his discount, as the way of flunkeys was, and is. Wit begins to grumble :

TRANSITIONAL SPECIES OF PLAYS.

181

This, Luggins, is your negligence ;
Wanting Wit's beard brought things into dislike ;
For otherwise the play had been all seen,
Where now some curious citizen disgraced it,
And discommending it, all is dismissed.

They count their money, and find wherein it fails. But Wit mends the whole matter; for when the Chancellor sweeps by to Court, he bids his lordship notice that two of the eight angels have been somehow dropped in the rushes. More calls his servant to account, rights the players, and goes forth on affairs of State.

This scene, which in some of its incidents reminds us roughly of Hamlet's interview with the Players, was no doubt intended to mark the character of More, and bring his humour and good nature into relief. But it serves our present purpose of vividly presenting the circumstances under which a strolling company of actors may have oftentimes in noble houses found the opportunity to play some more or less mangled version of a popular Morality.

XI.

Before taking final leave of the Moral Plays, it will be necessary to notice three pieces which

may

be described as hybrids between this species and the serious drama of the future. The first of these is ‘King Johan,' by John Bale the controversialist. Written certainly before Mary's accession to the throne of England, this play is the earliest extant specimen of the History, which was reserved for such high treatment at the hands of Marlowe and Shakspere. King John plays the chief part, and the legend of his death by poison is followed. But the interesting feature of the performance is that personifications, including the Nobility, the Clergy, Civil Order, the Commonalty, Verity and Imperial Majesty, are introduced in dialogue with real historical beings. The Vice too, under the name of Sedition, plays his usual pranks, while Dissimulation hatches the plot of the king's murder. “King Johan' must be read less as a history-drama than as a pamphlet against Papal encroachment and ecclesiastical corruption. But it has some vigorous and some tolerably amusing scenes, and contains the following very curious old wassail song :

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Wassail, wassail, out of the milk pail ;
Wassail, wassail, as white as my nail ;
Wassail, wassail, in snow, frost, and hail ;
Wassail, wassail, with partridge and rail ;
Wassail, wassail, that much doth avail ;
Wassail, wassail, that never will fail.

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Besides this piece, John Bale wrote a Moral Play in seven parts, with the title of God's Merciful Promises, and two sacred plays on “The Temptation of our Lord' and · John Baptist,' both of which are survivals from the elder Miracles. These are in print. Others of the same description by his hand remain in MS.

The anonymous tragedy of · Appius and Virginia is a dramatised version of the Roman legend which had previously been handled by Chaucer in his · Doctor of Physic's Tale. A leading part is assigned to the Vice, Haphazard ; and allegorical personages, Con

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