Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The False One c. 1620

I just came across this play and decided I needed to read it. It's actually pretty good! I can imagine it going nicely with the Roman plays I usually teach in my various Shakespeare courses. There certainly do seem to be some echoes of Antony and Cleopatra in it, though I suppose that may just be a common ancestry in Plutarch. Anyway, I thought I'd write up another Holzknechtian treatment for our friends over at Blogging the Renaissance. They're welcome to cut and paste it from here if they'd like to have it over there.

The False One by John Fletcher and Philip Massinger, circa 1620 (first printed in 1647).

Dramatis Personae

Julius Caesar, Emperour of Rome
Ptolomy, King of Aegypt
Achoreus, an honest Counsellor, Priest of Isis
Photinus, A Politician, minion to Ptolomy
Achillas, Captaine of the Guard to Ptolomy
Septimius, a revolted Roman Villain
Labienus, a Roman Souldier, and Nuncio
Apollodorus, Guardian to Cleopatra
........................}Caesars Captaines
Sceva, a free Speaker, also a Captaine to Caesar
Boy, Souldiers, Guard, Servants

Cleopatra, Queene of Aegypt, Caesars Mistrisse
Arsione, Cleopatras Sister
Eros, Cleopatras waiting Woman

Nylus and his seven Heads
Three Labourers

The Scene Aegypt

The prologue begins with a discussion of originality and derivation. Roman stories may be familiar to the audience, but this treatment of Caesar's erotic desire and of young Cleopatra is certainly different than other stories they may know, such as Shakespeare's treatment of Caesar's subsequent fall in the Capitol or Cleopatra's exercising her wiles on Antony.

Act One
At the court of King Ptolomy, his wise counselor and the captain of his guard provide exposition on the current situation: following others' advice, Ptolomy has imprisoned his sister Cleopatra, rival for the throne. The dastardly Septimus arrives and suffers their calumny. After Ptolomy enters with Labienus and hears that Pompey has been defeated at Pharsalia and now seeks refuge from his former dependent, he holds a council and listens to the wicked advice of Photinus (i.e. murder Pompey since Fortune obviously now favors Caesar) over Achoreus's virtuous advice (i.e. support Pompey, who supported Ptolomy in the past). Ptolomy empowers Photinus, who sends Septimus and Achillas to do the deed. Meanwhile, melancholy Cleopatra suffers house arrest, but plots an escape with the ingratiating Apollodorus. She must find a way to reach and impress Caesar directly, since he may preserve her majesty, though it may come at the cost of her virginity.

Act Two
Septimus enters boasting with Pompey's head, but Achillas rebukes him for taking so much pleasure in a wicked deed. Ptolomy enters with Photinus and Achoreus still contending over the wisdom of the deed. Seeing the head, Achoreus mourns the treachery. Caesar and his party arrive and Photinus with Achillas's help boasts of Ptolomy's devotion to Caesar, but Caesar and his party condemn them for the wicked murder. Rather than more material rewards, Caesar tells them that he forgives them for the murder and that they should give thanks for that reward instead. Ptolomy worries that Photinus's advice may not have been as good as he had hoped. Septimus sulks until Photinus assures him that his deeds will pay off in the end, asking whether he might be willing to commit another despicable deed. Meanwhile, Caesar and company worry about the untrustworthy Egyptians. Unable to rest, Caesar is troubled by a noise outside his chamber. It turns out it is his honest advisor Sceva, who has intercepted a packet intended for Caesar: he opens it for his master and out pops Cleopatra, who immediately enchants Caesar. A disgusted Sceva, who laments inadvertently becoming a bawd, quits the service of the enraptured Caesar as Cleopatra and he retire to discuss how he can serve her.

Act Three
Ptolomy worries that Photinus has ruined him, especially now that Cleopatra has Caesar's ear. Achoreus counsels signalling their trust in Caesar by appealing to him to mediate between the King and Cleopatra. Ptolomy agrees and turns against Photinus and Achillas. The Roman captains lament that Caesar has turned to dalliance rather than pursuing his military gains (though Antony admits she does have her attractions). When Septimus arrives, they scorn him. The murderer finds himself scorned by Eros too. He tries to buy the affections of Caesar's neglected, wounded soldiers, but when Sceva tells them whose gold they're taking, they give it back and reject him too. Meanwhile, Ptolomy has planned a masque to showcase the wealth of Egypt, foolishly hoping this will make Caesar more likely to side with him; his advisors on all sides caution against advertising Egypt's wealth to Caesar, lest it inspire the Roman simply to take Egypt for himself. Caesar enters, talking of the wonderful wealth of Egypt, then Cleopatra arrives. Finally, Ptolomy and his advisors enter with a show of wealth. Caesar can't take his eyes off the treasure, despite Cleopatra's efforts to keep his attention. Caesar watches a masque in which Isis extols the wonders of Nylus's abundance. Overcome, Caesar retires while Ptolomy gloats and Cleopatra sulks.

Act Four
The Egyptian advisors berate Ptolomy for enticing Caesar with the secrets of Egypt's wealth; the King regrets having put his safety at risk, but Photinus hints at a plan to redeem him. Cleopatra cannot believe her wiles have lost out to Caesar's greed for material things. If she were old and wrinkled, that would be one thing, but she's young and fresh! When Caesar arrives, she refuses his entry until he can restore her virginity, but he barges in because he is not accustomed to waiting. She refuses his advances, further whetting his appetite. Having been curtly dismissed, Caesar stands amazed but then hears news that Photinus has incited the Egyptians against the Roman party and reverts to his former martial bearing, pleasing his aides with this new resolve. Meanwhile, Septimius wallows in disgrace and repentance, earning some pity from the Roman soldiers who spurned him earlier. But Photinus and Achillas arrive to tempt him to another dastardly deed. He refuses at first, since their last proposal resulted in his current shame, but they promise him that if he can kill Caesar he will redeem his reputation.

Act Five
With the Egyptians in revolt not only against Caesar but also against their King, Ptolomy comes to the besieged Caesar and offers his assistance and those who remain loyal to him. Caesar is not used to being on the defensive, inside a siege, but recognizes the necessity of accepting Ptolomy's aid. The rebel party of Photinus, Achillas, and Septimius arrive, discussing their plans to kill Caesar's besieged party, including Ptolomy, and make Cleopatra a puppet until she is no longer useful to them. They exchange insults with Caesar, refusing to accept his points about law and authority since he himself abrogated law when he crossed the Rubicon. Caesar orders the palace to be burned and in order to lead his party through the confusion to safety. Septimius, realizing that he's a prop to be discarded by the actor Photinus, changes loyalty and resolves to aid Caesar. Meeting Caesar's party escaping the blaze of a second Troy, he offers to hide him and then bring him to Photinus's chamber to assassinate the rebel, but Caesar and his men scorn to take the base means of escape and leave soldier to kill off Septimius. As anarchy engulfs the city, Cleopatra's attendants lament the outrages they have suffered; a mob killed Arsino's "little dog, / And broke my monkey's chain!" But constant Cleopatra shows no fear, and when Photinus arrives and claims he has done all this for her favor, she scorns the base-born villain, even as he swears that no gods exist but himself. Achillas arrives with Ptolomy's body, but also bears the bad news that Caesar and his party escaped to his fleet. Photinus and Achillas flee as Caesar returns. Sceva reminds his master that he has business to complete before he can entertain Cleopatra and they exit, returning a few lines later with the rebels' heads. Cleopatra compliments him and he promises to bury Ptolomy honorably and to have the Senate install her as Queen of Egypt. A brief epilogue follows.


Monday, February 25, 2008

The Puritan Widow

I have finally had a chance to get my hands on the new Collected Works of Middleton. What a tome! I'll be curious what other folks think. Among the things that I am trying to digest: it includes Macbeth, Timon, and Measure for Measure. I mean, I get the argument that Middleton had a hand in some version of these, but still, it makes me a little queasy to see these here.

Anyway, in honor of updating some references to the new Collected Works, and again without my Holzknecht at hand to know if this is summarized elsewhere, I offer the following summary to my friends at Blogging the Renaissance. If they'd like to cut and paste it over to their blog, they're welcome to it! The Puritan Widow was among the Shakespeare apocrypha, which I suppose is apt for the occasion of my not being in an SAA seminar this year. Enjoy! And watch out for conjurors duelling in the streets of Dallas!

The Puritan Widow, by Thomas Middleton, c.1607

Dramatis Personae

Widow Lady Plus, a citizen’s widow
Frank }
}her two daughters
Moll }
Edmund, son to the Widow Plus
Sir Godfrey, brother-in-law to Widow Plus
George Pieboard, and scholar and a citizen
Peter Skirmish, an old soldier
Captain Idle, a highwayman
Corporal Oath, a vainglorious fellow
Nicholas St. Antlings }
Simon St. Mary Overies } serving men to Widow Plus
Frailty }
Sir Oliver Muckhill, a suitor to the Widow Plus
Sir John Pennydub, a suitor to Moll
Sir Andrew Tipstaff, a suitor to Frank
Sheriff of London
Puttock }
} two of the sheriff’s sergeants
Ravenshaw }
Dogson, a yeoman
Two Knights
Prison Keeper

Scene: London

Act One
Widow Plus mourns her deceased husband and she and Frances swear not to marry, though Sir Godfrey points out that they now have much to offer. Moll and Edmund, however, pledge to enjoy life. The impoverished scholar Pieboard (stand-in for Peele?) and the furloughed soldier Skirmish talk about their poverty, with Pieboard beginning to scheme for ways to fleece the Widow Plus. They meet and follow their friend Captain Idle, on his way to prison for turning to robbery. Corporal Oath and the puritanical Nicholas, Simon, and Frailty meet and exchange barbs; Oath is going to prison to find help for Idle and Nicholas realizes that the captain is his cousin, resolving to try to help him as well. At the Marshalsea, Pieboard and Skirmish learn of Idle’s offense, the simpleton Nicholas arrives and protests that he’ll do anything to help his cousin. Idle asks him to steal Sir Godfrey’s very expensive necklace to be pawned for Idle’s bail. Nicholas balks at the sin of “robbing” but agrees that “nimming” is not forbidden in the scriptures. Pieboard then reveals his plan: when the chain goes missing, Godfrey will storm, and Nicholas is to tell him that his imprisoned kinsman can conjure and reveal the location of any object including the necklace. Surely, Godfrey will bail Idle to regain his necklace. Meanwhile, Pieboard will work other plans for fleecing the widow.

Act Two
While Moll plots to find a husband, the Widow berates Godfrey for suggesting that she remarry, and turns away three courtiers who come to her door offering themselves to her and her daughters. When the pious scholar Pieboard arrives, he tells the Widow that he is in communication with her husband, who suffers in purgatory for his hypocritical, puritanical dealings. Though the Widow knows the truth of his dealings, she cannot admit them. Pieboard prophesizes that a fight will break out before her door, leading to bloodshed and a death, and that Godfrey will suffer a loss; if it does not happen, the Widow and Frank will go mad and Moll will be dumb, but if it does, then the Widow and Frank will marry and Moll will be prevented. In soliloquy, Pieboard explains how he’ll bring this to pass: he will have Skirmish and Oath fight at the Widow’s door, then slip a sleeping potion to Oath while ministering to his wound, making him appear temporarily dead; when Skirmish is about to be executed for the murder, Pieboard will intervene to revive Oath and gain a reputation as a miracle worker. Finally, Nicholas arrives with Godfrey’s chain and hides it in the rosemary bush as agreed.

Act Three
Skirmish makes small talk with the Widow’s servants until Oath arrives and they quarrel about calculating time (Oath calls Skirmish a fool for not understanding military time, i.e. that 17 is the same as 5 o’clock). In the brawl, officers arrive to carry off the wounded Oath, just after Pieboard administers his potion; Skirmish, who didn’t realize that was part of the plan, finds himself arrested for murder. The Widow feels reluctant relief that Pieboard’s prophecies have come to pass, saving her from madness, and tries to comfort Godfrey who raves at the loss of his chain. Nicholas mentions that his imprisoned cousin may be able to divine its location. Pieboard thrills that his plan is moving along, but despairs when Puttock and Ravenshaw arrest him for the debts he owes his landlady. He persuades them that a paper in his pocket is a masque he’s written for a nearby gentleman, and that if they’ll take him to that man’s house before they go to the Counter, he will use the payment to settle his debts to the landlady, pay them double their fees, and treat them to a feast. He picks a random gentleman’s house, gains entry, and in hushed conference talks the nobleman into helping him with his trick. They enter further into the house for his “payment,” where Pieboard sneaks out the back door. The sergeants are left to lament their foolish trust of a debtor. Pieboard arrives at the Marshalsea and helps the nervous Idle prepare for the role of conjuror. Godfrey arrives having expunged Idle’s crimes and solicits him to help him with the chain, offering a huge reward. The foolish Nicholas almost wrecks the plot a few times, but at last the conjuror Idle and the seer Pieboard, having consulted their almanac, agree to meet Idle the next day at noon to conjure up a devil who can find the chain.

Act Four
Moll plans her marriage to Pennydub whose country father has just died and left the fortune to him. The Widow tries to put off Muckhill and Tipstaff and when she learns that the conjuror has arrived, she must show them into her gardens to be rid of them. Godfrey and excited Edmund show Idle and Pieboard into the parlor and warn them to keep the devil from burning the tapestry and the plaster. They exit into another room to watch and listen through a keyhole. Idle puts on a good show and the timid Godfrey and Edmund retreat further. When they return, Idle says that the devil has gone and has left the chain on the rosemary bush in the garden. While Godfrey goes for the chain, Edmund remains behind and Idle and Pieboard convince him they have made him invisible. He strikes Godfrey who sees him as plain as day. The Widow finds herself enamored of Idle. Meanwhile, a procession dragging Skirmish to the gallows and Oath in his coffin passes the Widow’s door. Pieboard promises to take Skirmish’s place if he cannot revive Oath, which he does. While relieved, Skirmish promises to get even with Pieboard for the narrow escape. Godfrey calls for a banquet to celebrate the return of his chain, the miracles that have happened, and the marriage of the Widow to Idle and Frank to Pieboard. (There’s still an Act Five, of course...)

Act Five
The foolish Edmund and Frailty quibble over the details of the festivities. Pieboard and Idle arrive for the nuptials. Moll and Pennydub make their own preparations. Informed by Skirmish, the disgruntled Muckhill and Tipstaff plot to ruin the wedding by hiring a nobleman, whose words naturally carry extra weight, to defame the tricksters and support the courtiers. As the Widow’s party heads to church, the nobleman interrupts, reveals how Pieboard and Idle have tricked the Widow and Sir Godfrey. To make the Widow feel better, the nobleman proffers the love of Muckhill and Tipstaff, whom Godfrey now seconds. The nobleman declares that this happy ending has been brought about to make the heavens rejoice.


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Love's Cure or, The Martial Maid

I was just talking about this play with a friend. I don't have Holzknecht handy, so perhaps it's summarized there as well, but I thought I'd write this up all the same. If the folks over at Blogging the Renaissance have an interest in cutting and pasting it to their blog for Holzknecht Redivivus, they're welcome to it. Anyway, enjoy:

Love’s Cure or, The Martial Maid (Beaumont and Fletcher c.1606/ heavily revised by Massinger after c. 1629).

Assistente, or Governor
Vitelli, a young gentleman, enemy to Alvarez.
Lamorall, a fighting gallant, friend to Vitelli.
Anastro, an honest gentleman, friend to Vitelli.
Don Alvarez, a noble gentleman, father to Lucio and Clara.
Siavedra, a friend to Alvarez.
Lucio, Son to Alvarez, a brave young gentleman in womans habit.
Alguazier, a sharking pandarly Constable.
[Piorato, a swordsman]
Pachieco, a Cobler }
Mendoza, a Botcher } of worship
Metaldie, a Smith }
Lazarillo, Pachieco his hungry servant
Bobbadilla, a witty knave, servant to Eugenia, and Steward to Alvarez.
[Servants, pages, watch, guard, attendants]
Eugenia, a virtuous Lady, wife to Don Alvarez.
Clara, Daughter to Eugenia, a martial Maid, valiant and chaste, enamoured of Vitelli
Genevora, Sister to Vitelli, in love with Lucio.
Malroda, a wanton mistirise of Vitelli.

The Scene Sevil

Act I
In Seville, Vitelli reacts violently to the news that his enemy, Alvarez, and his ‘son’ have performed valiant deeds in Flanders and earned the Spanish King’s pardon for murdering Vitelli’s uncle. Alvarez and his ‘son’ return to Seville and rejoin Eugenia, who was pregnant when Alvarez departed. She bore him a son, but raised him as a daughter, ‘Posthumina,’ to protect him from Vitelli’s wrath. Vitelli bursts in on the reunion, but Alvarez’s cross-dressed virago/daughter, Clara, amazed at his valor, protects him from death.

Act II
Four buffoonish craftsmen berate Vitelli’s corrupt minion, Constable Alguazier, into treating them to a meal. Alvarez’s steward, Bobbadilla, mistreats the effeminate Lucio, who is not used to his sword, but suffers the buffets of Clara, who has a hard time accepting a passively feminine role. Vitelli comes to thank Alvarez’s son for protecting him, discovers that his defender was Clara, and the two fall in love.

Vitelli’s longtime mistress, Malroda, bribes Alguazier to serve as her bawd to the swordsman Piorato. When Bobbadilla hires Piorato to make Lucio act like a man, he mentions that Vitelli and Clara are in love. Piorato reveals this news to Malroda, hoping she’ll leave Vitelli. Malroda sneaks Piorato past Alguazier and Vitelli, picks a quarrel with her lover, and accuses him of throwing her over for Clara. Vitelli denies it and they appear to reconcile. Meanwhile, Clara refuses her mother’s proposed suitor, Siavedra. Piorato can’t make Lucio act more manly, but he reveals Vitelli’s longtime dalliance with Malroda to Clara, who demands visual proof that she’s been betrayed. Alguazier and the craftsmen plot a robbery.

Act IV
Vitelli leaves his sister Genevora with his friend Lamorall and goes to Malroda. Alguazier attempts Malroda, but Vitelli arrives and he skulks off. As Vitelli and his mistress reconcile, Piorato arrives above with Clara. He leaves her with his sword. She watches Malroda and Vitelli quarrel and reconcile again. Just as she despairs, Alguazier brings Piorato in to quarrel with Vitelli. In the confusion, the tradesmen enter and rob Vitelli, but Clara intervenes and everyone flees. She and Vitelli profess their love and he swears off whoring. Alguazier and the tradesmen count their spoils from Vitelli, then Alguazier leaves them to do more villainy. They spy on Alvarez and Bobbadilla who have taken Lucio to a dark alley and issued an ultimatum: fight with the next man and accost the next wench he sees, or be disowned. As Lucio reluctantly and comically attacks Lamorall and Genevora, the craftsmen join the melee. The chaos engulfs Alvarez and Bobbadilla as well. Lucio protects his father, redeeming his reputation, and absconds with Genevora. Alguazier arrives with the watch (including a disguised Assistente, the governor) to break up the scrum. He promises Alvarez that he will punish the rogues severely in private. Alone with them, Alguazier scoffs at civic authority and boasts of their successful schemes, only to suffer when Assistente unmasks. Lucio discovers the pleasure of kissing a woman other than his mother, but when Lamorall challenges him and takes Genevora’s glove-token, he backs down, earning Genevora’s scorn.

Act V
In a duel, Lucio disarms Lamorall but refuses to kill him and tries to console him about the loss of worthless honor. They part as friends. Vitelli arrives to tell Lamorall that the King has agreed to let Vitelli and Alvarez fight a duel to resolve the original dishonor of Vitelli’s uncle’s murder. Lamorall reluctantly agrees to be Vitelli’s second. Genevora receives a message from Clara asking for a secret meeting. Lucio arrives with tokens of his defeat of Lamorall and regains Genevora’s respect and desire. Alvarez and Lucio meet on the field of honor to fight Vitelli and Lamorall. Before they can fight, Eugenia, Clara, and Genevora enter above to try to persuade them to be reconciled. The women appeal to their beloveds, then to their kin, but the men are obstinate. Finally, they call in Bobbadilla with two swords and a pistol and demand that he kill them if the men raise their swords. At last, the men relent and all are reconciled. Assistente then pronounces punishments on Alguazier and his roguish friends, and the play ends with Alvarez and Vitelli commenting on the power of love to restore nature corrupted by custom.

A brief, generic epilogue (used as well with the Deserving Favorite in 1629) is printed at the end.

There is also a prologue from the play’s revival that praises the original wit of Beaumont and Fletcher, comparing them to Phidias and Apelles.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Richard Brome: The Sparagus Garden, A Comedie

One of the great Brome experts (is there more than one?) has told me more than once that I should write about The Sparagus Garden, but I doubt I will. All the same, I thought I'd set out a little Holzknechtian summary in case the folks over at Blogging the Renaissance would like to include it in their Holzknecht Redivivus. The play is part of a small sub-genre of place comedies set in specific London locales in the 1630s; it is supposed to have been very popular and have earned the gents of the King's Revels 1000 pounds (!), though Bentley considers this figure an exaggeration. It's got an allusion to Beaumont's Pestle, and perhaps a few other plays that I might write up for the Notes and Queries series.

The Sparagus Garden, A Comedie
Performed, 1635 at Salisbury Court; printed 1640 by J. Okes for Francis Constable.

Dramatis Personae

Gilbert [Goldwire]}
............}young Gentlemen and friends [brothers-in-law; friends of Samuel]
Walter [Chamlet]}

[Samson] Touch-wood}
..........}Old Adversaries, and Justices
Striker }

Samuel, Sonne to Touch-wood.
[Hugh] Mony-lacks, a needy Knight that lives by shifts [once Striker's son-in-law]

...............}Confederates with Mony-lacks

Tim. Hoyden, the new made Gentleman
Coulter, his Man.

Thomas Hoyden, Tim. Hoydens brother.

Sir Arnold Cautious, a stale Batchelour, and a ridiculous Lover of women.

A Gardiner.

Trampler, a Lawyer.


Three Courtiers.

Annabel, Daughter to Mony-lacks, and Grandchild to Striker. [in love with Samuel]

[Fid] Friswood, her nurse; and House-keeper to [and former mistress of] Striker.

Rebecca, wife to Brittle-ware [niece of Friswood].

Martha, the Gardiners wife.

Three Ladies.

Gilbert and Walter approach Touchwood to learn his feelings about a match between Touchwood's son, Samuel, and Annabel, the grand-daughter of his nemesis, Striker. They remind him that their own fathers had been important civic men, had quarreled, and had then been reconciled in a marriage between Gilbert and Walter's sister. Touchwood declares that he has disowned Samuel until he renounces Annabel and does some great offense to Striker. Gilbert and Walter comfort Samuel and plot some "witty" way to fulfill the wealthy father's demands and still match with Annabel. Mony-lacks comes to Striker, the father of his deceased wife, and suffers Striker's calumny. Striker will care for Annabel, his grand-daughter as long as Mony-lacks renounces any claim on her; otherwise he will expel her from his household and leave her on the hands of this destitute knight. After mentioning his part in promoting the Asparagus Garden scheme, Mony-lacks reveals that Annabel and Samuel have been meeting clandestinely and leaves [with Striker saying that his home is "no enchanted castle" to keep Mony-lacks from leaving; I note this minor parallel to All's Lost by Lust]. Striker confronts Annabel's nurse who claims that she made up the story of Annabel's love for Samuel to see if Mony-lacks would tell tales and in hopes that Striker would beat Mony-lacks from his house. After a warning that she must keep Annabel and Samuel apart, she tells her charge of the danger, as Samuel appears. He hands them a note with a plot to be reunited.

Rebecca and Brittleware quarrel. They have been married five years with no children and she wants to be pregnant. Mony-lacks, who has been their lodger, hears her complaints and tells her that eating asparagus--a [phallic] aphrodisiac--in the wonderful new pleasure garden will help her to conceive. She departs and Brittleware and Mony-lacks plot their next move: their confederate, Springe, is bringing to town a country bumpkin who wants to become a gentleman. Tim Hoyden arrives and tells his story: his mother, a gentlewoman, gave birth to him in Somersetshire and in her will she maintained that her brother was a gentleman. She wanted her boy to become a gentleman himself, then visit his uncle, and so Tim has come to town with four hundred pounds. He will spend it on clothes, on establishing his credentials as a gentleman, and on being cheated so he can see how London's sophisticates live. Mony-lacks and his friends are happy to oblige: Brittleware, claiming to be a surgeon, says that Tim must have his base blood bled from him and Mony-lacks explains that a diet of delicacies, including asparagus, will replace his lost blood with ennobled new blood. Tim could not be happier. Meanwhile, Walter and Gilbert convince Touchwood that Samuel has impregnated Annabel and left her. Touchwood rejoices and after feigning a stern reprimand, gives Samuel a bag of money to travel to France and enjoy himself. Although he is sworn not to say anything about the pregnancy to anyone who doesn't tell him first, he confronts Striker and alludes to the pending disgrace, hoping to vex him to death. Striker returns home, hears from Friswood that Annabel is indeed pregnant, and threatens to throw her and the nurse out of doors. But Friswood blackmails him, reminding him that many years ago his own sister had been impregnated by an unknown gallant and that Striker had sent her away and kept her marriage portion for himself; if he throws out Annabel and the Nurse, she will reveal this fact and add to his own disgrace. He agrees to keep silent.

The Gardiner and his wife Martha talk about the Asparagus pleasure garden they operate: costly meals, costly rooms, and great profits. Gilbert, Walter, and Samuel arrive but cannot get a room--Martha knows that she can get better rates by keeping her popular rooms for rendezvous between gallants and the wives of broken citizens. They set up in an arbor to wait for Walter's uncle, Cautious, a voyeur who likes to gaze on beautiful women but knows they are not honest and won't bother to marry. Gilbert spies Cautious, tells him that he must save his nephew from the bad influence of a poet [Samuel, introduced as "Bounce"] and help Walter to a good marriage. In a feigned quarrel between Bounce and Cautious, Walter takes his uncle's part, securing his admiration and determination to be helpful. Three graceful ladies come in and dance with three courtiers. Then Mony-lacks, Springe, Tim, Coulter, Rebecca, and Brittleware arrive. Rebecca and Brittleware retire to lounge to try the powers of asparagus. Mony-lacks and Springe discuss Tim's progress towards becoming a gentleman. It's true that he is almost broke and has made good progress. They persuade him to dismiss Coulter, who must return to Somerset and take service with Tim's clownish older brother [unbeknownst to Tim, his brother is his elder half-brother]. Rebecca returns unsatisfied and grows more frustrated as she sees city wives of her acquaintance in pleasantly blissful disregard dispensing the high fees demanded of Martha. As everyone departs, Martha pays Mony-lacks for all of the clients he has brought to her Sparagus Garden.

Tom meets Coulter before Striker's house. They enter and he tells [in a STRONG Somerset accent] how his [step] mother was Striker's sister and asks Friswood to acquaint Striker with this news. They withdraw as Touchwood enters to mock Striker. The Curate wheels Striker out from his sickbed and Touchwood gloats. Once Friswood scolds him for making light of Annabel's condition, Touchwood is freed from his oath and gloats even more. They nearly come to blows, but Tom and Coulter intervene. As Touchwood and the curate depart, Striker dismisses Tim until he can prove his relationship. Striker also feels renewed affection for his poor grand-daughter who has been abused by the Touchwood family and begins to reconcile with her. Cautious arrives to woo Annabel for Walter and Striker sings her praises while downplaying Walter's worth--he has a scoundrel's reputation and not a lot of money, not a good match for the virginal and timid Annabel who is better suited to be a nurse. Gilbert arrives with his arm in a sling and tells Cautious that Walter and Bounce had tricked him and that they had then fallen out because Walter had disgraced another virgin. Cautious declares his intention to marry Annabel himself. Meanwhile, at Brittleware's, Tim has learned the rules of gentlemanly behavior and now takes notes as Springe and Brittleware practice conceited greetings and backhanded compliments. Gil, Wat, and Sam observe and then enter. They mention that Rebecca has taken off in one of the new-fangled Sedan chairs and Brittleware goes after her. They consult with Mony-lacks about Cautious marrying his daughter, while trading barbs with Tim and his new conceited phrases. Tom and Coulter arrive and fight with Tim, but then he agrees to go inside and wait for Rebecca.

The attorney, Trampler, tells Touchwood about the marriage contract he has drawn up for Annabel and Cautious and offers to help Touchwood match Samuel instead. Touchwood resolves to vex Striker, either by ruining the match so that Annabel will be an unwed mother, or to befriend him since vexing Striker only makes him healthier. Gilbert and Wat arrive, planning to get Touchwood to break the match and are happy to see he already plans to; they just need to manage the timing. Tom and Coulter arrive to demand a warrant from Touchwood to arrest Mony-lacks and his crew; they were drugged at Brittleware's and when they revived everyone was gone and Tim's last set of clothes were there but Tim, Striker's nephew and son of Audrey, had vanished. Touchwood, Tom and Coulter, and Gilbert and Wat all head to Striker's to find Mony-lacks. The Curate, on his way to perform Annabel's marriage to Cautious, encounters Brittleware looking for Rebecca. They meet Trampler who says that Rebecca is at Striker's; as they depart, they find a Sedan chair with a woman's garment peeking out and Brittleware throws open the door expecting to find Rebecca. Instead he finds Tim, wearing Brittleware's mother's garments, being led to St. Giles. They all head toward Striker's. At Striker's Friswood and Rebecca have been dressing Annabel. Striker and Cautious arrive and send Fris and Rebecca to fetch her from her prayers. Mony-lacks arrives and threatens to undo the match of his daughter, takes a bribe of 40 pieces from Striker to stay silent, then tells Cautious that as Annabel's father he has already pre-contracted her for 40 pieces and will lose 100 if she marries someone else. Cautious asks Striker to pay the 100 pieces from the dowry he has promised and he does, grudgingly. Gil, Wat, Touchwood, Tom, and Sam arrive at Striker's. Touchwood promises to remain silent until the wedding is underway. While waiting, Touchwood asks for more information from Tom and learns that Striker's disgraced sister Audrey had fled to Somerset, married Hoyden, and that Hoyden had raised Tim as his own, revealing the truth to Tom on his deathbed. Annabel and her female attendants arrive for the wedding; she wears mourning. Eventually Fris and Touchwood's comments make it clear that she is pregnant and Cautious backs out of the wedding, but the lawyer tells him he has a commitment to see her wed or will lose his estate. Cautious offers Wat 1000 pounds to wed Annabel or find her a husband in "Bounce." Touchwood now reveals the basis of his quarrel with Striker: long ago, he loved Audrey and impregnated her before they wed; Striker kept her portion and banished her; Touchwood refused to wed her, hoping Striker would relent; during the stand-off, Audrey didn't understand Touchwood's motive and thinking herself disgraced, fled; Touchwood later married and had a son, Samuel; but now it turns out that Tim is actually his son by Audrey. As everyone is amazed by this revelation, Walter says he has persuaded Bounce to marry fallen Annabel, but Touchwood prevents this match saying that he will allow Samuel to marry Annabel to make up for his own disgraceful actions toward Audrey. Bounce reveals himself as Samuel and Annabel takes the pillow out of her gown, producing Samuel's letters that clear her of any disgrace. Tim now comes on stage with a jewel that had been hidden on his person, proving his relationship to his uncle Striker and now finding that he has a gentleman father in Touchwood. He shows off his gentlemanly behavior by insulting Striker. Chastised, Striker wishes to marry Friswood and make an honest woman of her. Rebecca and Brittleware reconcile too. Touchwood offers to raise Tom as a gentleman, without all the bleeding. They celebrate the new amity with wine.


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Old Law: Or a New Way to Please You

On one of the blogs I enjoy reading (relatively anonymously, so far--I feel uncertain about returning to blogging), the community is creating an updated Holzknecht. I think that's a great idea. Since I just happened to be reading Middleton and Rowley's The Old Law, I thought I might write up a little synopsis of it. [ETA: I offered this little summary to the folks over at Blogging the Renaissance, and I am happy to say that they have added it to their Holzknecht Redivivus.]

Dramatis Personae

Evander, Duke of Epire
Cratilus, The Executioner
Creon, Father to Simonides
Simonides, A Young Courtier
Cleanthes, A Young Courtier (the hero)
Lysander, Husband to Eugenia, and Uncle to Cleanthes
Leonides, Father of Cleanthes
Gnotho, The Clown
Lawyers (2)
Courtiers (2)
Butler, Bailiff, Tailor, Coachman, Footman, Cook, Servants of Creon

Antigona, Wife of Creon
Hippolita, Wife of Cleanthes
Eugenia, Wife of Lysander, Mother of Parthenia
Agatha, Wife of Gnotho
Old Women who marry Creon's servants

Fiddlers, Servants, Guard, etc.
Scene: Epire

In ancient Epire, the new Duke has passed a law that all men who reach their eightieth birthday (and all women who turn sixty), having outlived their usefulness to the state, will be euthanized. Simonides enters discussing the strength of this new law with two lawyers. He can hardly wait to get his hands on his inheritance, as two courtier friends of his have already done. Cleanthes laments the imminent demise of his father, but can find no way around the law. Creon and his wife arrive and Simonides puts on a show of grieving that today Creon turns eighty; old Creon can see through his son's feigned care. Leonides, accompanied by his virtuous daughter-in-law Hippolita, arrives and hears Cleanthes' sincere despair but accepts his fate because he has had a good life. Cleanthes and Hippolita hatch a plan to fake Leonides' death and hide him out in the countryside.

Creon and his wailing wife appear before Evander to receive the death sentence. Simonides's courtier-friends congratulate him on his inheritance. Meanwhile a gaudy funeral procession crosses the stage, with Cleanthes and Hippolita rejoicing that Leonides has passed away of natural causes rather than under the executioner's blade. Simonides dismisses his father's former servants who must shift for themselves now. Young Eugenia comes on stage; she can hardly wait to be released from marriage to her much older husband, Lysander, and accepts the flirtations of the courtiers, especially Simonides, who hope to marry her and gain her wealthy husband's fortune. Her husband scolds her and departs. Her cousin, Hippolita, arrives and mistakes Eugenia's tears for genuine sadness over Lysander's approaching death and, to comfort her, reveals the secret that Leonides is not dead but is hiding in a hunting lodge. Maybe Eugenia would want to do the same for Lysander?

Gnotho, who is married to an older wife, Agatha, tries to persuade the Clerk to amend the baptismal registry to make the date of her baptism in 1539, sixty years before the play's "present" [the play was written in 1618 however]. He meets the newly unemployed servants of Creon, explains how much profit is to be made from marrying 59-year-old widows, and wagers that he can make his fortune by marrying two in quick succession while getting rid of Agatha, who arrives and scolds Gnotho while being depressed by his determination to be rid of her. Eugenia receives the stylish Simonides and his friends, but Lysander arrives and attempts to prove his youthfulness by challenging the suitors to three feats of strength: he duels with one, out-dances a second, and drinks Simonides under the table. Cleanthes arrives, rebukes Eugenia as an undutiful wife, and scolds Lysander for not soberly acting his age. When Eugenia confronts Cleanthes, he accuses her of being a whore. To get her revenge, she heads off stage to inform Evander that Leonides is still alive.

Reveling in a tavern with a courtesan, Gnotho domineers the unemployed servants. Disguised Agatha arrives with several old women, who dance for and entertain these poor men. Cleanthes, at the hunting lodge with Hippolita, cares for Leonides. The sound of a hunting horn dismays him. Evander arrives and Leonides is discovered. Cleanthes rails against Hippolita, the only other person to know the secret. Eugenia arrives to gloat and Cleanthes argues back, but ultimately blames himself for provoking wicked Eugenia to use the information his wife had disclosed.

Empowered as magistrates, Simonides and the Courtiers dally with Eugenia, pass judgment on Lysander who has reached eighty, and then as Evander arrives, prepare to pass sentence on Cleanthes and Hippolita for helping Leonides escape his due punishment. An extended scene ensues between Cleanthes, defending conscience and filial piety, and Simonides and his crew. As Cleanthes demands that judgment be passed, Evander intervenes (this is a tragicomedy after all) to reveal that none of the old men have been executed. Further, he has passed a new law that only sons who exhibit proper respect for their fathers can inherit their property. As Simonides watches his plans go up in smoke, Gnotho arrives, dragging Agatha along to execution, with his beautiful courtesan on his arm. The fact that the old law has been repealed, a kind of test, means that Gnotho will remain married to Agatha and Creon's old servants will remain married to the old widows they'd been pursuing, though Creon will now take his servants and their new wives back into his household.