Fulgens And Lucrece Essay Format

This essay will argue that contemporary drama in England was affected by religious, social and political protest using examples from John Bale’s play, ‘Kyng Johan’[1] and Henry Medwall’s secular play, ‘Fulgens and Lucrece.’[2] This essay will examine evidence that suggests the reign of Henry VII and the changes he made to the class system affected themes in ‘Fulgens and Lucrece’[3]. It will also look at evidence surrounding a link between Bale’s ‘Kyng Johan’[4] and the Protestant Reformation in England.

Rainer Pineas has summarised, “that the purpose of the pre-Reformation morality play, then, was to teach men the way to heaven. It taught that men should do good works, partake in sacraments of the Church…avoid evil as represented by Satan or allegorised in the Vice.”[5] Although a post-Reformation morality play continues to aim to teach men the way to heaven, they differ from the style of pre-Reformation morality plays in that rather than evil coming from a vice or Satan, the vice is usually linked to the Catholic faith. This shows that the Protestant Reformation affected contemporary drama.

Bale’s post-Reformation play, ‘Kyng Johan’[6] is often seen as an “allegorical combination of morality and history play”[7] because although the play uses a real historical figure as a protagonist (King John) it also uses allegorical figures such as “Usurpyd Power” and “Private Welth.”[8] Pineas suggests that unlike the pre-Reformation morality play, “the new morality is a polemical morality and therefore concentrates on the negative aspect of morality’s function, on the condemnation of the “evil” of Catholicism.”[9] There are several examples of this Protestant bias in Bale’s ‘Kyng Johan.’[10] Firstly, on line 107 of the play Englande comes to King John as a poor widow and tells him that, “Thes vyle popych swyne hath clene exyled my hosband.”[11] By England being a wasted, stricken widow, it is suggested that this is the state that the country itself is in, therefore showing how Catholicism has impacted negatively on England as a country. Furthermore, in “Kyng Johan,”[12] God is Englande’s husband, this would suggest that the Pope has exiled God from the country and the possibility of redemption seems remote; thus suggesting that Catholicism is not portrayed as a means to salvation and this indicates that the religious protest of the Protestant Reformation in England affected contemporary drama.

Secondly, Bale’s King John is seemingly a reformist protestant himself, “syns the clergy wrowght by practyse and left the scriptur for menn’s ymagynacyon.”[13] This is different to what Pineas thought of Catholic teachings where, “pre-Reformation morality taught its audience the way to heaven…obedience to the authority of a priest who administered them.”[14] Therefore suggesting that the figure of King John is against the “practyse” of Catholicism where priest’s words confuse “scriptur” and is more in line with the protestant belief that the word of God is most holy. Greg Walker wrote that, “He stands unequivocally behind the demand for the Scriptures in English and the protestant attack upon the ceremonial aspects of Catholic worship.”[15] This suggests that Protestantism is portrayed as a greater means to salvation and this indicates that the religious protest in England affected contemporary drama.

There is further support that Bale’s “Kyng Johan”[16] was affected by the Protestant Reformation when Sedicyon reveals his heritage. He claims that he is not from England but from Rome, ““Thowgh I sumtyme be in Englande for my pastaunce…But under the pope in the holy cyte of Rome, and there wyll I dwell unto the daye of dome”[17] (Lines 181-184). This could be similar to a device used in mumming plays such as “The Lutterworth Play of St. George,”[18] where the evil figure would declare (or it would be made clear to the audience) where they came from. This evil figure was often foreign, for example in the St. George play the evil figure is “the Turkish Champion”[19]. This could have roused xenophobic feelings in an audience and increase their distrust of the vice figure. Hence it could be argued this is the desired outcome of Sedicyon announcing his Roman heritage. However it could also be a subversion of a device often used in pre-Reformation morality plays where the Vice is highlighted by announcing their parentage. Therefore by drawing attention to Sedicyon’s heritage in “the holy cyte of Rome” and referencing the Pope, it is explicitly shown that Sedicyon is not only the Vice but also a Roman Catholic so the two become synonymous. A Vice being a Catholic would suggest that the religious protest of the Protestant Reformation in England affected contemporary drama.

Thirdly, all of the vice figures in “Kyng Johan”[20] and their evil actions are associated with the Roman Catholic Church. For example, Sedicyon is dressed as a monk, “sumtyme I can be a monke in a long syd cowle,”[21] (Line 195) Usurpyd Power is dressed as The Pope and Private Welth is dressed as a “Cardynall”[22] (Line 1025). This links the allegorical meaning of the figure to the Catholic minister which they are dressed as, for example, Usurped Power is dressed as the Pope, which would show the Pope to have become power corrupted. Pamela King suggests that “the vices are scions of the Roman Catholic faith…the vices, in addition to disguising themselves as good counsellors, have historical aliases which suggest an analogy between contemporary circumstances and the period of the reign of King John.”[23] This suggests that not only was “Kyng Johan” influenced by the religious protest of the Protestant Reformation but also by contemporary political protest.

At the time Medwall’s “Fulgens and Lucrece”[24] was produced, Henry VII was on the throne in England, who was the first monarch of the House of Tudor. Bevington writes that “the Tudor monarchy introduced new criteria for political success in England. No longer supreme was the military warlord… The man now prized at court was an eloquent speaker, canny adviser, tireless administrator of public policy and above all well educated.”[25] This change can be seen as the first step of the removal of the feudal system in England which achieved a more nationalistic political control and counterbalanced the authority of the old aristocracy. Bevington continues by suggesting that, “The new order naturally endorsed hierarchy of order and degree, but placed… emphasis on professional ability, literary training and the innate qualities of “gentiles” that might be found in untitled men as well as nobility.”[26] This context can be argued to have affected the political meaning of “Fulgens and Lucrece”[27] in several ways.

Firstly, in the opening speeches of the Fulgens and Lucrece, ‘A’ believes that ‘B’ is an actor in the play, “I trowe your owyn self be oon / of them that shall play.”[28] To which ‘B’ replies, “Nay, I am none. / I trowe thou spekyst in derision/ to lyke me therto.” ‘B’ is offended that ‘A’ should think he is an actor because an actor would have been a low level position in society, the irony being that he is indeed an actor in the play. ‘A’ then goes on to defend his earlier statement with the lines, ““Ther is so myche nyce aray / Amonges these galandis nowaday / That a man shall not lightly / know a player from another man,” which suggests that everyone in the audience would have looked the same. Prior to the Tudor period only certain ranks of society would have been able to wear certain colours or garments, therefore insinuating that everyone looks the same is quite a politically controversial statement given the context of Henry VII’s “new order”[29] because it is showing that noble birth has less status in society than it once had. The fact this drawn attention to by actor A suggests that political protest affected contemporary drama.

Secondly, the use of the ‘A and B’ sub-plot in “Fulgens and Lucrece”[30] has been interpreted by critics in several ways. Bevington believes that, “The famous double plot of “A” and “B” is motivated chiefly by the need for comic undercutting of political satire and for conciliation through laughter”[31] which is an idea shared by Waith who suggests that, “the episode of A and B with Jone is obviously a comic parallel to the central situation.”[32] Although it is clear that the sub-plot of ‘A and B’ is intended to be humorous, (for instance the scenes where they each try to win the favour of Lucrece’s maid are unlikely to be taken seriously) there is evidence to suggest that it does serve other purposes throughout the play. In Lines 188-191, ‘A’ and ‘B’ introduce the actors of the other parts, “B. Pees, no moo words, for now they come, / The plears, bene evyn here at hand. / A. So thei be, so help me God and halydome, / I pray you, tell me where I shall stand.”[33] This gives the actors A and B a dramatic purpose similar to that of mumming plays, where part of the job was to make space for the play to be performed and introduce the players, so the audience would know who was playing what part. In addition to this, Greg Walker believes that, “The actors could thus be effectively playing themselves, with all the possibilities for in-jokes and extra-dramatic allusions that this would entail.”[34] This is important because it suggests that despite being comical the players of A and B could be anyone and therefore are not only more relatable to the audience but also allow politically controversial themes to be alluded to with less chance of offending anyone.

Lastly, as said by Pamela King, “the play is not a morality play, but a dramatization of a humanist treatise on the nature of true nobility.”[35] This is clearly shown in “Fulgens and Lucrece”[36] when Lucres says to her father, “And also to[o] unwyse yf I wolde not see / That I had hym which is most honorable.”[37] This demonstrates Medwall’s Christian idealist values and his endorsement of the new Tudor changes, showing that what truly matters is a person’s humanistic nature. However Medwall is careful not to disrespect any of the aristocratic classes, this is summarised well by Bevington who suggests that, ‘Medwall also tactfully disclaims any intention of condemning all the old families out of hand. Given a nobleman and a commoner of equal merit, he of course prefers the nobleman”[38] This is shown by when Lucres agrees with the pro-noble servant (actor B) that it would be best if the suitor was a man of virtue and also of a high status in society. The fact that Lucrece chooses a civil servant suitor over that of a nobleman would cha

In conclusion, I believe that there is evidence that the advent of religious, social or political protest in England affected contemporary drama. The advent of the Protestant Reformation in England affected Bale’s “Kyng Johan”[39] illustrated by both the negativity towards the Catholic impact on England and how the vice figures such as Sedicyon, Usurpyd Power, Private Welth and Dissymulacyon are all Catholic. The advent of the start of the House of Tudor affected Medwall’s “Fulgens and Lucrece”[40] indicated by Lucrece’s choice against a noble suitor in favour of a lower class man, a choice which would not have been portrayed in previous drama.

Endnotes

[1] Edmund Creeth ed., ‘King Johan’ Tudor Plays (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1966)

[2] Edmund Creeth ed., ‘Fulgens and Lucrece (Part I)’ Tudor Plays (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1966)

[3] Edmund Creeth ed., ‘Fulgens and Lucrece (Part I)

[4] Edmund Creeth ed., ‘King Johan’

[5] Rainer Pineas, ‘The English Morality Play as a Weapon of Religious Controversy,’ Studies in English Literature 1500-1900, Vol. 2, No. 2, Elizabethan and Jacobean Drama (Rice University, 1962), pp. 157-180

[6] Edmund Creeth ed., ‘King Johan’

[7] Martin Le Boutillier, ‘Bale’s Kynge Johan and the Troublesome Raigne’ in Modern Language Notes, Vol. 36, No. 1 (The John Hopkins University Press, 1921), pp. 55-57

[8] Edmund Creeth ed., ‘King Johan’

[9] Rainer Pineas, ‘The English Morality Play as a Weapon of Religious Controversy,’

[10] Edmund Creeth ed., ‘King Johan’

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid

[14] Rainer Pineas, ‘The English Morality Play as a Weapon of Religious Controversy,’

[15] Greg, ‘Radical Drama? John Bale’s King Johan’ Plays of Persuasion: Drama and Politics in the Court of Henry VIII (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991) pp. 169-221

[16] Edmund Creeth ed., ‘King Johan’

[17] Ibid.

[18] ‘The Lutterworth Play of St George’: E.K Chambers, The Medieval Stage (London: Oxford University Press, 1903), vol.2

[19] Ibid.

[20] Edmund Creeth ed., ‘King Johan’

[21] Ibid.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Pamela, M. King, ‘Morality Plays’ in The Cambridge Companion to Medieval English Theatre. Ed. Richard Beadle (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008)

[24] Edmund Creeth ed., ‘Fulgens and Lucrece (Part I)

[25] David Bevington. Tudor Drama and Politics. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1968) pp.42

[26] Ibid.

[27] Edmund Creeth ed., ‘Fulgens and Lucrece (Part I)

[28] Ibid.

[29] David Bevington. Tudor Drama and Politics.

[30] Edmund Creeth ed., ‘Fulgens and Lucrece (Part I)

[31] David Bevington. Tudor Drama and Politics.

[32] Eugene, M Waith, ‘Controversia in the English Drama: Medwall and Massinger’ PMLA, Vol. 68, No. 1 (Menasha Wis.: Modern Language Association, 1953), pp. 286-303

[33] Creeth, Edmund ed., ‘Fulgens and Lucrece (Part I)

[34] Greg Walker, Medieval Drama: An Anthology, (Blackwell, 2000) pp.306

[35] Pamela, M. King, ‘Morality Plays’ in The Cambridge Companion to Medieval English Theatre.

[36] Creeth, Edmund ed., ‘Fulgens and Lucrece (Part I)

[37] Ibid.

[38] David Bevington. Tudor Drama and Politics.

[39] Edmund Creeth ed., ‘King Johan’

[40] Edmund Creeth ed., ‘Fulgens and Lucrece (Part I)

Bibliography

Bevington, David. Tudor Drama and Politics. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1968)

Creeth, Edmund ed., ‘Fulgens and Lucrece (Part I)’ Tudor Plays (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1966)

Creeth, Edmund ed., ‘King Johan’ Tudor Plays (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1966)

Degenhardt, Jane Hwang and Elizabeth Williamson. Religion and Drama in Early Modern England: The Performance of Religion on the Renaissance Stage. (Ashgate Publishing Ltd, Farnham: Ashgate, 2011)

Happe, Peter. ‘A guide to criticism of medieval English theatre’ in The Cambridge Companion to Medieval English Theatre. Ed. Richard Beadle(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008)

King, Pamela, M. ‘Morality Plays’ in The Cambridge Companion to Medieval English Theatre. Ed. Richard Beadle (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008)

Le Boutillier, Martin, ‘Bale’s Kynge Johan and the Troublesome Raigne’ in Modern Language Notes, Vol. 36, No. 1 (The John Hopkins University Press, 1921), pp. 55-57

‘The Lutterworth Play of St George’: E.K Chambers, The Medieval Stage (London: Oxford University Press, 1903), vol.2

Pineas, Rainer. ‘The English Morality Play as a Weapon of Religious Controversy,’ Studies in English Literature 1500-1900, Vol. 2, No. 2, Elizabethan and Jacobean Drama (Rice University, 1962), pp. 157-180

Waith, Eugene, M. ‘Controversia in the English Drama: Medwall and Massinger’ PMLA, Vol. 68, No. 1 (Menasha Wis.: Modern Language Association, 1953), pp. 286-303

Walker, Greg, ‘Radical Drama? John Bale’s King Johan’ Plays of Persuasion: Drama and Politics in the Court of Henry VIII (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991) pp. 169-221

Walker, Greg, Medieval Drama: An Anthology, (Blackwell, 2000) pp.304‐347

Medwall, Henry, and M. E. Moeslein. The Plays of Henry Medwall: A Critical Edition. New York: Garland, 1981. The section on Medwall’s life is dotted with general information about Tudor England that is not immediately or definitely applicable to the dramatist. Contains a consideration of the language, style, and versification in the plays, a discussion of Medwall’s literary reputation, and a separate introductory section for each play with extensive commentary. Lengthy and in the main valuable, but with extraneous comments. Includes an appendix for life records and illustrations. Unattractive format.

Nelson, Alan H., ed. The Plays of Henry Medwall. Totowa, N.J.: Rowman and Littlefield, 1980. Contains a substantial amount of material on Medwall’s life, including connections with the powerful cardinal John Morton and the young Thomas More. Offers interesting comments on the morality play technique and the language of Medwall’s two surviving plays. Includes a listing of documents pertaining to Medwall’s life, texts of both plays with notes and a glossary, and illustrations.

Reed, A. W. Early Tudor Drama: Medwall, the Rastells, Heywood, and the More Circle. 1926. Reprint. New York: Octagon Books, 1969. Establishes Medwall’s place at the very beginning of the new drama developing just before 1500. Discusses Medwall’s relationship with Cardinal John Morton and possible connections with Thomas More. Presents information on Medwall’s association with John Rastell, himself a playwright, who printed Fulgens and Lucres, and whose son William printed Nature.

Whall, Helen M. To Instruct and Delight: Didactic Method in Five Tudor Dramas. New York: Garland, 1988. Sees Nature as a failure (too instructive and insufficiently delightful) and Fulgens and Lucres as a success (highly didactic; marvelously entertaining, and almost perfect). Medwall’s source for his best play is viewed as a product of Renaissance rhetoric, oratory and debate, and Medwall’s best play is found to be gently persuasive, with its concepts of true nobility presented with diplomacy and good humor.

0 Replies to “Fulgens And Lucrece Essay Format”