Skip to main content

Full text of "Divine poetry and drama in sixteenth-century England"





















Bentley House, 200 Euston Road, London, N.W. 1 


Berkeley and Los Angeles 

First printed 1959 
Keprinted 1961 

First printed in Great Britain at the University Press, Cambridge 
Keprinted by offset-litho by Thoben Offset : , Nijmegen, Holland 


Preface page vii 

Introduction i 

Part I 


I The Forerunner: Savonarola 9 

II The Theorist: Erasmus 14 

III The Bible as English Literature: 

Tyndale and the Catholic Opposition 20 

IV The First English Song Book : Luther and 

Coverdale 27 

V The Psalms as English Poetry under Edward VI 34 

VI The Psalms as English Poetry under Elizabeth I 46 

VII The Works of Solomon as English Poetry 5 5 

VIII Other Books of the Bible as English Poetry 67 

IX Du Bartas and King James and the Christian 

Muse 74 

X Du Bartas and English Poets 84 

XI Poems about Biblical Heroes 93 

XII Divine Mirrors and Related Poems 108 

XIII Divine Erotic Epyllia 122 

XIV Divine Sonnets 130 



Part II 


I The Divine Drama and the Miracle Play page 141 

II Continental origins of the Divine Drama in 

Latin 145 

III Continental School Drama in the Vernacular 1 5 8 

IV Latin Divine Dramas in English Schools 163 

V Divine Dramas in English Universities 174 

VI Biblical Plays for Special Audiences: 

Prodigal-Son Plays 192 

VII Biblical Plays for Special Audiences 207 

VIII Biblical Plays for the Commons 223 

IX Biblical Plays in the Public Theatres 238 

Index 261 



The story of the freeing of the Bible from the confines 
set by the authorities of the church which dominated 
the religious life of western Europe and England has often 
been told, but it has generally been told in terms of the political 
and theological conflicts which attended its liberation. The 
secondary story of the use of the Bible to combat the influence 
of the new paganism and the new secularism which accom- 
panied the rediscovery of ancient works of literature and art 
has, however, received scant attention. It is to a very small 
part of that story that this book is dedicated. I have, indeed, 
limited my study to those attempts made in England in the 
sixteenth century to make the Bible a part of English literature, 
to make its poetry English poetry, to tell its stories in English 
poetry and English drama. I have omitted consideration of 
continental backgrounds except as they were directly influential. 
Miss Marianne Moore has said that acknowledgements are 
in danger of incriminating rather than honouring those to 
whom they are addressed, but, though I recognize the truth of 
her words, I cannot refrain from saying my thankyoifs. A Gug- 
genheim fellowship started my writing the book for which 
I had long been accumulating evidence. Dr Henry Allen Moe 
and Dr Louis Wright gave me encouragement to take up again 
the work which a bad accident and a long period of enforced 
inactivity interrupted. The members of the Department of 
English of my university carried library books to me, Professor 
Franklin Rolfe and Professor James Phillips read drafts of early 
chapters, and Professor Alfred Longueil read the whole of the 
section on poetry. The librarians at the Huntington Library and 
at the University Library have been helpful, as always. The 
Research Committee of the University has provided typing 
assistance. For all of this help I am most grateful. Professor 
F. P. Wilson took time from busy days at Oxford to consider 
the section on drama, the librarians in the North Room of the 



British Museum were generous with their help during a long 
summer, and the librarians made a hasty visit to the Bodleian 
profitable. For this British courtesy to a visiting American 
I am also most grateful. I can only hope so much kindness will 
not have been bestowed in vain. 

Perhaps one word is necessary in regard to the transcribing 
of quotations from sixteenth-century texts. I have not altered 
spelling or punctuation except that I have observed modern 
usage in transcribing u and v, i and j. I have persisted, in spite 
of some friendly criticism, in using the form of the name of a 
Bible character which occurs in the poem or play being dis- 
cussed. I have done so because the spelling has occasionally 
seemed significant to certain critics in determining the particular 
Bible used by the author. 


The University of California 
Los Angeles 
May J 957 


When Milton turned to divine poetry, writing of 'the 
heaven-descended King' in his ode On the Morning 
of Chris fs Nativity, he invoked the Heavenly Muse. 1 
When he began Paradise Lost, pursuing ' Things unattempted 
yet in Prose or Rhyme', he again invoked the aid of the 
Heavenly Muse, joining with his plea an invocation to the 
Holy Spirit. From 1 5 74, when Du Bartas published La Muse 
Chrestiene containing the poem UUranie, Urania the Muse of 
Astronomy had been taken over as the Christian Muse, 2 and 
as Milton began the Seventh Book of Paradise Lost, his descrip- 
tion echoed the associations that had grown up about her : 

Descend from Heav'n Urania, by that name 
If rightly thou art call'd, whose Voice divine 
Following, above th' Olympian Hill I soar, 
Above the flight of Pegasean wing. 
The meaning, not the Name I call: for thou 
Nor of the Muses nine, nor on the top 
Of old Olympus dwelPst, but Heavenly born, 
Before the Hills appear'd, or Fountain flow'd, 
Thou with Eternal Wisdom didst converse, 
Wisdom thy Sister, and with her didst play 
In presence of th' Almighty Father, pleas'd 
With thy Celestial Song. 

The consecrating of Urania to Heavenly tasks gave new 
inspiration to a movement already gathering momentum in_ 
the Christian world. The invention of printing had made 
possible the wide distribution of the rediscovered literature of I 
the ancient pagan world. Translation, emulation, creation 
followed, and a great secular literature was coming into being. 

1 The change to divine poetry with the writing of his poem on Christ's 
nativity is recorded in Elegy VI, written to Charles Diodati. I have used through- 
out the edition of Milton prepared by Merritt Y. Hughes (New York, 1937) 
and quotations from Milton's Latin are given in the English translations of this 
edition. Milton's change to divine poetry is discussed by J. H. Hanford, John 
Milton (New York, 1949), but without recognition of the term divine poetry. 

3 See ch. ix. 


The old romances too, found readers and imitators. It is not 
surprising that the need for an accessible Bible and a Christian 
literature became insistent. 

It was Milton who was most eloquently to answer those who 
claimed precedence for the ancient classics because of their 
excellence and their antiquity when he represented Christ 
replying to Satan's praises of them : 

Or if I would delight my private hours 

With Music or with Poem, where so soon 

As in our native Language can I find 

That solace? All our Law and Story strew'd 

With Hymns, our Psalms with artful terms inscrib'd, 

Our Hebrew Songs and Harps in Babylon, 

That pleas'd so well our Victors' ear, declare 

That rather Greece from us these Arts deriv'd; 

111 imitated, while they loudest sing 

The vices of their Deities, and their own 

In Fable, Hymn, or Song. 

Little to profit or delight will be found in them when their 
' swelling Epithets ' are removed, and they 

Will far be found unworthy to compare 

With Sion's songs, to all true tastes excelling, 

Where God is prais'd aright, and Godlike men, 

The Holiest of Holies, and his Saints ; 

Such are from God inspir'd, not such from thee; 

Unless where moral virtue is express 'd 

By light of Nature not in all quite lost. 1 

The Hebrew prophets too, Milton's Christ claimed, better than 
the great pagan orators, taught ' What makes a Nation happy, 
and keeps it so'. 

As Sidney summarized the arguments in defence of Poetry, 
as Raleigh summarized in his preface to The History of the World 
the claims of history as a guide to the present, so Milton sum- 
marized in these and like passages the arguments for a Christian 
literature based on the Bible, a new divine literature. 

The beginnings of the movement which produced a divine 

1 Paradise Regained, Bk iv, 11. 331-52. 


literature in England were halting and often awkward, but the 
progress toward its fulfilment is worth recording. It is my 
purpose, then, in this study to trace the movement in the 
sixteenth century which resulted in the poetry of Donne and 
Herbert and Milton and those others in the seventeenth century 
who praised God in nobler words and sounder rhythms. 

If I were to undertake to trace the whole movement to make 
the Bible the guide to Christian living I should require more 
years than I can hope to live and more volumes than any printer 
would publish. In education Henry VIII decreed that the 
fundamentals of religion might be learned in English; Colet 
thought the boys at St Paul's school might learn their Latin 
through reading Lactantius, Prudentius, Proba, Sedulius, and 
Juvencus as well as the pagan classics. The colloquies of Cordier 
or Castellio were offered as substitutes for the Flowers of Terence. 
Hebrew and Greek knowledge was recognized as a pathway to 
the Scriptures. Rhetoric and logic were offered in textbooks 
with all the examples culled from the Bible. King James in 
Scotland made the Book of Revelation serve the purpose of 
instruction in civil government. Even the stratagems of war 
could be learned, some thought, from the Bible rather than 
from Frontinus. Indeed, there were attempts to make the 
Bible a complete and exclusive guide to every aspect of Christian 
living for states as well as individuals. But this guide must be 
made available in their own languages if men and states were 
to live by it. 

That the translation of the Bible into languages familiar to 
the common people of all nations was, therefore, a major 
purpose of the reformation movements in England as well as 
on the continent of Europe does not need to be re-demon- 
strated here. That making these translations accessible to all 
who could read their native languages was pressed as a means 
of combating the monopoly claimed by the Roman Catholic 
Church for its right to serve as the only guide on the journey to 
an assured heaven is also not a matter for further dispute. What 
I propose to try to show is that both Catholic and non-Catholic 
writers turned to the Bible to find in Latin or in the vernacular 
a means of combating the influence of the revival of classical 

3 1-2 






learning and the developing taste for pagan and secular story 
and song. The Jesuit school drama written in Latin was as 
much a part of the movement as were the divine sonnet se- 
quences which appeared in the vernacular in various countries. 
In England the first phase of the movement was represented 
J by translation — of the whole Bible into prose, the poetic parts 
of the Bible into English verse. Next came the adapting of 
Bible story to the various literary genres as they became current 
in secular literature. Finally there was the free use of Bible 
story as foundation, ornament, or atmosphere in original 
creations. I am restricting this study to English poetry and 
drama in the sixteenth century, and to poetry and drama based 
directly on the Bible. I am excluding other devotional poetry 
as well as drama devoted solely to a polemical purpose. 

The term divine poetry has, I think, been generally misunder- 
stood, though it is a recurrent term in the sixteenth and seven- 
teenth centuries. For instance, C. S. Lewis summarizing Sid- 
ney's Apology for Poetry represents Sidney's ' kinds ' as ' the 
devotional, the philosophical, and the fictional'. 1 But Sidney 
did not use the word devotional; what he said was that among 
poets ' The chiefe both in antiquitie and excellencies were they 
that did imitate the inconceivable excellencies of GOD ', and 
he instanced the writer of Job, Solomon in his Ecclesiastes and 
Proverbs as well as in his Song of Songs, Moses and Debora 
in their hymns, and David in his Psalms as such writers. Only 
in a very broad sense can all of these works be termed devotional, 
and Sidney called David's Psalms ' a divine Poem', 2 though the 
Psalms are of course devotional. Kathleen Tillotson says of 
Drayton that he is ' perhaps above all, a religious poet — not so 
much in his biblical poems as in his view of poetry. (He speaks 
of it always as a something hallowed, a divine power; and his 
most powerful images are, like Milton's, celestial and starry.)3 
But when Drayton published in The Muses Eli^ium poems re- 
counting the Biblical stories of Noah and the Flood, of Moses, 
and of David and Goliath, he set them off in a separate section 

1 English Literature in the Sixteenth Century (Oxford, 1954), p. 344. 

2 See ch. vi. 

3 The Works of Michael Drayton, ed. by J. William Hebel, vol. v, ed. by Kath- 
leen Tillotson and B. H. Newdigate (Oxford, 1941), p. xiv. 


with a separate dedication calling them divine poems. Mrs Tillot- 
son says, however, that in spite of the invocation which opens 
'Noahs Floud', it cannot be regarded as a religious poem. 1 

It is this use of devotional and religious and sometimes of \ 
theological which seems to me to cloud the fact that there was 
a movement to substitute divine poetry for the secular poetry 
which was coming off the presses in the sixteenth century, a 
movement to substitute Biblical story for secular story, to 
substitute a Christian mythology for a pagan mythology, as 
well as to substitute prayer and praise of the Christian God for 
poetry addressed to an unkind mistress. That it is the subject- 
matter of the poem or drama that makes it divine poetry or 
divine drama and not the religious or non-religious attitude of 
the author is implicit in the description of the kinds of poetry 
distinguished by Sidney. It is explicit in Peter Martyr's Common 
Places', 'betweene Poems divine and humane, this is the dif- 
ference ; that humane Poems doo setfoorth the renoume of kings, 
princes, feelds, cities, regions, castels, women, marriages, and 
sometime of brute beasts. But divine Poems doo onlie sing of 
God, and celebrate him onlie'. 2 The Refutation by 'I.G.' of 
Thomas Heywood's Apology for Actors would, indeed, make 
divine drama worse than non-religious : ' The Materiall cause or 
matter of Playes is their Subject whereupon they speake and 
entreat, and that is two fould, either Divine or Prophane. If 
Playes be of Divine matter, then are they most intollerable, or 
rather Sacrilegious.' 3 That I.G.'s attitude was not that of the 
participants in the movement to create a divine literature is 
obvious, but it illustrates the point which I want to stress, that 
divine literature depends upon its subject-matter. 

No one of the writers of divine literature doubted that it 
could and should be written in prose or poetry, in any and all 
of the metrical forms which were used in profane verse, in any 
and all of the literary genres which were currently in use. 
When Milton translated the Psalms, when he wrote his divine 
poetry as ode and epic and tragedy, when he turned to Urania 

1 Drayton, vol. v, p. 224. 

2 Peter Martyr Vermigli, Common Places (London, 1583), part 3, cap. 12. 

3 Reprinted with Heywood's work in Scholars' Facsimiles and Reprints (New 
York, 1941), with introduction and notes by R. H. Perkinson, p. 54. 



as his Muse, he was following in the long-established tradition 
for the divine poet. 

There were some who professed a desire to clothe their high 
message in plain and humble garb, but for the most part, they 
accepted what Thomas Nashe expressed, though they might 
not have accepted Thomas Nashe. Dedicating his Christs Tears 
over Jerusalem to Lady Elizabeth Carey, and noting that ' Fames 
eldest favorite, Maister Spencer, in all his writings he prizeth 
you ', he said : ' Unworthy are wee of heavenly knowledge, if 
we keepe from her any one of her hand-may des. Logique, 
Rethorique, History, Philosophy, Musique, Poetry, all are the 
hand-maides of Divinitie. She can never be curiously drest, or 
exquisitely accomplisht, if any of these be wanting.' 1 It will be 
apparent in the following pages that most of the writers of 
divine literature must have been well acquainted with these 
handmaids to divinity, for most of them had had an university 
education or had been well trained in music. That they lacked, 
many of them, that something more — call it divine fury or 
what you will — is only too apparent, but I am concerned here 
with the beginnings and the purposes which underlay the 
studied attempt to oppose the pagan and secular literature 
seeming to many good men in the sixteenth century to lead the 
people away from God. 

I have chosen to trace rather a narrow path by which 
the movement came into being in England. There were many 
contributions which I have not recorded, but I think the 
path I have tried to describe is the most important one. 

1 Pub. 1593. Nashe says in his dedication: 'To write in Divinitie I could not 
have adventured, if ought else might have consorted with the regenerate gravitie 
of your judgement. Your thoughts are holy, holy is your life: in your hart lives 
no delight but of Heaven. Far be it I should proffer to unhallow them, with any 
prophane papers of them.' 





It was in the sixteenth century that the Christian Bible came 
once more to stand forth in its glory, undimmed by its cloud 
of witnesses. In England as in the rest of Christendom the 
Bible itself had become almost lost in the multitude of inter- 
pretations, in the intellectual tangles of theological logic, in 
the rivalries of dispute over dogma. To the majority of the 
people it was an inaccessible and a forbidden book ; inaccessible 
because only the learned could understand the Latin in which 
it was available, and forbidden even to those who could read 
Latin save only those duly authorized by the Church. In 
England, Knight records in his life of Colet, ' that Use and Study 
of the Scriptures was so low at that Time, and even in the Uni- 
versity of Oxford^ that the being admitted a Batchelor of Divinity, 
gave only Liberty to read the Master -of Sentences [Pet. Lombard], 
and the highest Degree o£ Doctor of Divinity , did not admit a man 
to the Reading of the Scriptures'. 1 In Cambridge, too, Mullinger 
writes that the lecturers were not allowed to lecture on the 
Bible until they had lectured on the Sentences. 2 

The resurrection of the Greek and Roman past known as the 
Revival of Learning had brought first to Italy and then to all 
of western Europe and to England a new approach to all the 
arts and a new interest in human life as it is lived on earth. It 
had brought also the old pagan gods to the horizons of thought 
and pagan philosophies to rival the philosophy which was 
formulated in the theology of the Christian church. The in- 
vention of printing had made possible the dissemination of 
learning of every kind to others than the cloistered few and the 
small number having access to princely libraries. Even the 
spiritual shepherds of men turned their thoughts to secular 
affairs, to the enjoyment which their five senses could provide, 
to the worship in spirit and sometimes in fact of the pagan gods. 

1 Samuel Knight, The Life of Dr John Colet (London, 1724), p. 51. 

2 James B. Mullinger, The University of Cambridge (Cambridge, 1873), vol. 1, 
p. 363, n. 2, and Index under Bible, p. 653. 


Machiavelli is not generally chronicled among the reformers 
of the church, but he wrote that nothing could 'portend the 
mine of our Church with more certainty, than that those who 
are nearest the Church of Rome (which is the head of our 
Religion) should have less religion than other people ', adding 
that anyone comparing the current practice with the primitive 
foundation, would find that ' either utter destruction, or some 
great judgment was hanging over our heads'. 1 Those who were 
to lead the rebellion against the licentiousness of their time did 
in fact attempt to do just what Machiavelli suggested here, to go 
back to the source of their religious faith. They wanted to go 
behind the Sentences, behind all the niceties of dogma, to the 
Bible itself. They wanted to revisit the early fathers of the 
church and to proclaim anew a fresh and vigorous faith. 

The luxury with which the Borgias clothed their de- 
baucheries, the papal sanction given to war and to lust, the 
penetration of the influence of the pagan classics into every 
phase of life could but call forth eventually a revolt, and, like 
another John the Baptist, the friar Girolamo Savonarola 2 came 
from his Florentine monastery in the last decade of the fifteenth 
century, denouncing the evils of the life about him and crying 
for repentance lest destruction ensue both here and in the 
hereafter. Very rarely have men's hearts been so moved as they 
were by his words. Learning flourished, but religion was being 
destroyed, and the two things were associated in Savonarola's 
mind. To him a return to the Bible and its teaching was the only 
means of salvation. 'Go thou to Rome and throughout 
Christendom,' he exclaimed; 'in the mansions of the great 
prelates and great lords, there is no concern save for poetry and 
the oratorical art. Go thither and see, thou shalt find them all 
with books of the humanities in their hands, and telling one 
another they can guide men's souls by means of Virgil, Horace, 
and Cicero.' The clergy, he said, ' tickle men's ears with talk of 
Aristotle and Plato, Virgil and Petrarch, and take no concern 

1 Nicholas Machiavel, The Discourses upon the First Decade of Titus Livius in 
Works (London, 1720), p. 284. 

* One of the best contemporary accounts of Savonarola is given in The Historie 
of Guicciardiniy trans, by Geoffrey Fenton (London, 1599), Bk in (the first ed. 
was printed in 1579). 



for the salvation of souls. Why, instead of expounding so many 
books, do they not expound the one Book in which is the law 
and spirit of life!' 1 

Yet in a work that seems to have been almost lost sight of, 
Opusperutile de divisione acultilitate omnium scientiarum, Savonarola 
showed that he would not altogether abolish the pre-Christian 
learning. ' There is ', he wrote, ' a false race of pretended poets, 
who can do naught but run after the Greeks and Romans, 
repeating their ideas, copying their style and their metre; and 
even invoking the same deities, almost as though we were not 
men as much as they, with reason and religion of our own. 
Now this is not only false poetry, but likewise a most hateful 
snare to our youth.' Nevertheless, he recognized that 'even 
among the ancients, there be some that condemned vicious 
things, and extolled the generous deeds of great men : by these, 
poetry was turned to good use, and I have neither the right nor 
the wish to condemn them'. The safeguard that he would set 
up was 'a strong and healthy Christian training' before any 
study of the heathen poets was allowed. 2 It must be remembered 
too that it was he who saved the great Medician library deposited 
in the convent of Saint Mark's when its confiscation was 
threatened by Medici creditors. His was, indeed, the general 
attitude to be taken by those rebelling against the paganizing 
and secularizing of the intellectual life of Christendom. 

In a practical way also Savonarola demonstrated the means 
by which the obnoxious practices of the times might be sup- 
planted. At the time when Savonarola was at the height of his 
popularity as a preacher in Florence, the Florentine delight in 
carnivals and pageants was accentuated by Lorenzo the Mag- 
nificent, whose most famous invention was, according to 
Villari, the Canti Carnascialeschi 'to be sung in carnival mas- 
querades of the triumph of death, troops of devils, or other 
whimsicalities of the time'. The songs are universally described 
as adorned with obscenities and vulgarities. In 1497 and 1498 
Savonarola inspired a counter-celebration, known as the Burn- 

1 Pasquale Villari, The Life and Times of Girolamo Savonarola (London and New 
York, 1888), pp. 179-83. 

2 Villari, pp. 500-5. See also Piero Misciattelli, Savonarola, trans, by M. Peters 
(Cambridge, 1929), pp. 30-2 and 101-2. 



ing of the Vanities. Burckhardt has described the celebration of 
1497 as it took place on the Piazza della Signoria: 

In the centre of it rose a high pyramid of several tiers On the 

lowest tier were arranged false beards, masks, and carnival disguises; 
above came volumes of the Latin and Italian poets, among others 
Boccaccio, the ' Morgante ' of Pulci, and Petrarch, partly in the form 
of valuable printed parchments and illuminated manuscripts ; then 
women's ornaments and toilet articles, scents, mirrors, veils and 
false hair; higher up, lutes, harps, chessboards, playing cards; and 
finally, on the two uppermost tiers, paintings only, especially of 
female beauties, partly fancy-pictures, bearing the classical names of 
Lucretia, Cleopatra, or Faustina, partly portraits of the beautiful 

Bencina, Lena Morella, Bina and Maria de' Lenzi When the pile 

was lighted the Signoria appeared on the balcony, and the air 
echoed with song, the sound of trumpets, and the pealing of bells. 
The people then adjourned to the Piazza di San Marco, where they 
danced round in three concentric circles. The innermost was com- 
posed of monks of the monastery, alternating with boys, dressed as 
angels; then came young laymen and ecclesiastics; and on the out- 
side, old men, citizens, and priests, the latter crowned with wreaths 
of olive. 1 

To overthrow the Canti Carnascialeschi Savonarola composed 
his L,audi Spiritual! which Villari would place outside the field 
of genuine art, for, he says, * their metre, form and even almost 
their ideas are suggested and determined by the very species of 
poetry they were meant to supersede. The author set them to 
the same music as the Carnival Songs, and followed the same 
arrangement, while trying to substitute a word of faith or 
religion for every one of their lewd expressions.' 2 

Savonarola was executed in 1498, but his influence lived on in 
artists, the greatest of whom was Michelangelo, and in new 
religious leaders, the greatest of whom was Martin Luther. 3 To 

1 Jacob Burckhardt, The Civilisation of the Renaissance in Italy (Phaidon Press, 
dist. by Oxford University Press, New York, 1950), pp. 295-6. 

1 Villari, pp. 506-7. 

3 That Luther claimed Savonarola as a forerunner of the Reformation is 
argued from his preface to his edition of Savonarola's Expositio ac Meditatio in 
Psalmum Misereri Mei, published probably in 1 5 20 according to the British Museum 
Catalogue. Misciatelli contests the claims (p. 208), finding him rather a precursor 
of the Counter-Reformation. It is interesting to note that the Luther Memorial 
at Worms still stands with Savonarola as one of the four figures grouped about 
the central figure. See A. C. McGiffert, Martin Luther (London, 191 1), p. 204, 
for a description. 



England the tenets of his teaching were carried directly or in- 
directly : the return to the Bible as the fountain of all truth, the 
limited acceptance of those pagan works which inculcated a 
sound morality both by precepts and examples, the use of 
popular secular forms of literature to carry new religious 
content. These were ideas and precedents which formed the 
basis of much of the new movement toward a Christian litera- 
ture which was to develop during the succeeding century. 




The problem which faced the Christian world when the 
great literature of the ancient Greeks and Romans was 
given new life through the rediscovery of old manu- 
scripts and the dissemination of their contents by the new art 
of printing was essentially the same problem which had had 
to be faced at the time when Christianity first spread to the 
v educated classes. Therefore, it was natural that the men of the 
Renaissance who were troubled about the influx of pagan 
literature and pagan ideas and ideals should turn again to those 
of earlier ages who had attempted to find the answer. Probably 
the most influential scholar in the sixteenth century and fore- 
most among those bent on reclaiming the work of the ancient 
-^fathers of the church 1 was Erasmus of Rotterdam, Desiderius 
Erasmus as he was later to call himself. In the early summer of 
1499 he journeyed to England, where he became the friend of 
John Colet and Thomas More. The lasting result of this friend- 
ship has been recorded most eloquently by Frederic Seebohm 
in his Oxford Reformers and by W. E. Campbell in his Erasmus, 
Tyndale and More and in many studies of the three individually. 
I shall not attempt to retell their story, but it is necessary to note 
here that it was the influence of Colet that directed the talents 
of the young humanist scholar toward matters of religion. 

It was in 1496 that Colet, newly returned from Italy, began 
a course of lectures on Saint Paul's epistles which were, See- 
bohm says, 'so far as can be traced, the first overt act in a 
movement commenced at Oxford in the direction of practical 
Christian reform'. 2 Whether Colet had during his stay in Italy 
heard the preaching of Savonarola has never been determined, 
but what he set out to do in his exposition of the Pauline epistles 

1 P. S. Allen, Erasmus (Oxford, 1934), pp. 47-55 et passim. For lists of his 
editions of the ancient fathers see Allen, Erasmi Epistolae (Oxford, 1906-47), 
where these lists are added at the end of each of volumes 6 to 13. 

2 Frederic Seebohm, The Oxford Reformers (Everyman's Library ed., London, 
1929), p. 2. 



was the logical sequence of Savonarola's teaching. 1 To place *\ 
the Bible before his hearers as ' a record of real events, and the 
lives and teaching of living men ' instead of regarding it simply 
as an ' arsenal of texts ' was Colet's aim, and such exposition of 
the Scripture as he gave brought it to bear upon men's daily 
lives and thoughts. 2 

When Erasmus went to England he was already known as a 
humanist, and his continued reputation has been largely based 
on works directed to other ends than that upon which his 
resolve centred after his first trip to England and his friendship 
with Colet. '"Erasmus" is the only name in all the host of 
humanists', Huizinga says, 'which has remained a household 
word all over the globe', and it is as a humanist that his fame 
has so long outlived him, but during his time in England he 
determined to devote himself thereafter primarily to theological 
studies. 3 Here he came in contact with scholars like Grocyn 
and Linacre learned in Greek. He realized his limitations if he 
were to enter upon the great work of his life, and like a true 
scholar he determined to perfect himself in Greek as a prepara- 
tion for it. 4 

Long familiar with the works of the ancient fathers of the 
church and attracted especially to Saint Jerome, Erasmus knew 
the most famous of Jerome's letters in which he described the 
dream in which he had been ' caught up in the spirit and dragged 
before the Judge's judgment seat', and on being asked his 
condition, had replied that he was a Christian. The great Judge 
had answered, ' Thou liest, thou art a Ciceronian, not a Chris- 
tian '.5 Perhaps Colet did for Erasmus what the dream did for 
Jerome. At any rate, like Jerome, he brought the training and 
the talents of the humanist to the works of religion to which 
most of his later life was devoted. 

At about this time Erasmus decided to edit the whole works 

1 On the question of Savonarola's influence see especially Seebohm, pp. io-i i, 
21 and n. i, and 97. 

2 Seebohm, p. 17. 

3 J. Huizinga, Erasmus of Rotterdam (London, 1953), pp. 33-40. 

4 W. E. Campbell, Erasmus, Tyndale and More (London, 1949), pp. 32-4. 

5 Jerome's Letter 22 as trans, by F. A. Wright (Loeb Classical Library, London, 
1933), p. 127. 

1 5 


of Jerome, but a chance discovery in an old library near Lou- 
vain of Valla's Annotationes on the New Testament determined 
him to do what Jerome had done, to make a new translation of 
the New Testament into Latin. 1 Since Jerome's translation of 
the Bible was the authorized text of the Church, his undertaking 
was a hazardous one. In dedicating to Archbishop Warham 
in 1 506 his translation into Latin of the Hecuba and the Iphigenia 
in Aulis of Euripides he wrote that he had decided to do these 
translations to test how far he had progressed in the study of 
both Greek and Latin 'in material difficult indeed, but not 
sacred; so that the difficulty of the undertaking might be useful 
for practice and at the same time if I made any mistakes these 
mistakes should involve only the risk of my talent and leave 
the Holy Scriptures undamaged'. 2 

In 1505 Erasmus succeeded in having Valla's manuscript 
work printed in Paris, not without an outcry against his 
bringing the work of a humanist scholar to the criticism of 
sacred literature. It was probably during his second stay in 
England from late in 1505 until the summer of 1506 that, 
spurred on by Colet, Erasmus made his initial translation of 
the New Testament. It was a propitious time for his under- 
taking, since he was then in friendly contact with Greek 
scholars as well as with those ecclesiastics like Warham who 
were to become his patrons. In 1509 he returned to England 
for the last of his extended visits, a visit which ended in 1 5 14. 
Here he completed his Praise of Folly in the house of More, 
its Latin title Moriae Encomium furnishing opportunity for a 
scholarly pun. Here at times he lectured at Cambridge on 
divinity and on Greek. Most of his days and nights were, 
however, given over to his edition of the works of Jerome and 
to the preparation of the amended text of the New Testament, 
for he had decided to publish a Greek text and his notes along 
with his Latin translation. The work, says Huizinga, was 
'inspired, encouraged, and promoted by Colet'. 

A brief visit to England in 1 5 1 5 was perhaps made in part 
to secure a copy of the translation of the New Testament which 

1 Campbell (p. 34) gives 1502 as the date; Huizinga (p. 57), 1504. 

2 Huizinga, pp. 81-91 and 204-5. 



he had left there. At any rate the results of his many years of 
scholarly labour were evident when in 1516 both his New 
Testament and the first four volumes of the nine-volume edition 
of Jerome's works were published. The labour of other scholars 
contributed to this edition of Jerome's works (published 1 5 16- 
20), but Erasmus was the general editor, and these first four 
volumes were those which contained Jerome's letters edited 
by Erasmus himself. 1 

Though Erasmus was translating the New Testament into V* 
Latin, thus offering a new Latin text to compete with the autho- 
rized text of the Catholic Church, his preface advocated making 
it available to all men, laymen as well as clerics, and to this end 
he would have it translated into the vernacular and made a part 
of their life in their songs and stories. 2 These ideas were later 
incorporated in a separate work which was printed in 1 5 1 9 at 
Basel under the title Paracksis, id est, Adhortatio ad sanctissimum 
ac saluberrimum Christianae philosophiae studium and which, trans- 
lated into English by William Roye, appeared in editions of 
1529 and 1 5 40 as An 'Exhortation to the Diligent Study e of Scripture. 
I quote from the 1540 edition certain passages which were 
echoed constantly in the later writing on these subjects. 
Addressing 'the good and godly reader', Erasmus says: 

I Remembre good reader, that at another tyme also in a certayn 
place, I have testifyed and knowledged my selfe, to be very farre 
dysagreynge in opynyon, from those whiche do thynke the laye men 
& suche as be not learned ought utterly to be kept far awaye from 
the readynge of the holy bokes and scryptures, to the which (as in 
the olde tyme, none but the preestes entred, unto the most holy and 
moste secrete places of the temple) they thynke none shuld be ad- 
mytted : or suffered to have entreaunce but a fewe suche which have 
ben many yeres exercysed and beaten in the phylosophy of Arystotle 
and in the dyvynyte scolastycall, used within the scoles of the 

Acknowledging that some parts of the Old Testament are not 
quite adapted to common understanding, he argues that the 

1 For Erasmus's comments on Jerome as expressed in his letter to Pope Leo X 
see J. J. Mangan, Life, Character and Influence of Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam 
(New York, 1927), vol. 1, pp. 395-8. 

2 For the influence of Jerome evident in the ideas of Colet and of Erasmus 
see especially Seebohm, ch. xi, pp. 199-209. 

2 17 cdp 


gospels of the New Testament were written and taught to the 
unlearned as well as to the learned, and every man may select 
what will do him good: 

Let us consydre what manner hearers Chryste hym selfe had, was 
it not a multytude gathered of all sortes, in the whiche were blynde, 
lame, beggers, tolle gatherers, Capytaynes of warre, artyfycers, 
women and children? Wyll he be greved that his wordes be redde 
of suche of whom he was contented to be herde when he dyd speake 
hym selfe ? By my counsell and advyse, the ploughman and husbande- 
man of the countrey shall reade scrypture, the carpenter, the smyth, 
the mason, yea and harlottes also, and bawdes shall reade it and to 
be shorte, the Turkes also shall reade it. If Chryst dyd not kepe suche 
away from his owne voyce, I wyll not stop theym and kepe theym 
awaye from his bokes. 1 

Jerome had set a precedent when he had made a translation 
of the Bible into the familiar language, Latin. He had set 
another precedent when he incorporated in one of his letters 
which Erasmus edited a description by Paula of the little 
monastery at Bethlehem which she had helped Jerome to found. 
I quote Rand's translation of the passage : 

In this little villa of Christ everything is rustic, and apart from the 
singing of Psalms, there is silence. The ploughman driving the share 
sings an alleluia. The sweating reaper diverts himself with Psalms, 
and the vine-dresser clipping the shoots with his curved pruning- 
knife hums some snatch from David. These are the songs in our 
district. These are the popular love-lays. This is what shepherds 
whistle; this is what heartens the tillers of the soil. 2 

The description of 'this little villa of Christ' is echoed by 
Erasmus in the Paraciesis as he writes that ' beynge of the same 
oppynyon & mynde, whiche saynte Hierome was of he would 
rejoice exceedingly if it could be 

that the ploughman holdynge the plough dyd synge somwhat of 
the mystycall Psalmes in his owne mother tonge yea and yf the wever, 
syttyng at his worke, dyd synge somewhat of the gospell, for his 
solace and comforte in his labours & moreover yf the mayster of 
the shyppe, syttyng faste at the sterne, do synge also somewhat of the 

1 Ff. d iiii and e ii verso. 

2 Letter 46 as trans, by E. K. Rand, Founders of the Middle Ages (Cambridge, 
Mass. 1929), p. 119. 



same and for to make an ende yf the wedded wyfe, when she sytteth 
at her dystaffe, have some companyon, or kynneswoman nere unto 
her which doth reade and reherse somewhat herof unto her. 1 

Thus Erasmus not only challenged the Christian world to 
accept a fresh Latin translation from a new Greek text, but he 
would also free the Bible from the binding interpretations of 
the schoolmen by letting all men read it in their native languages 
and make it a part of their daily living in their songs and in 
their stories. 

In 1 5 1 7, even while he was at work amending his translation 
of the New Testament, Erasmus published the first of his 
Biblical paraphrases, that of Paul's Epistle to the Romans. It 
was the beginning of a series of paraphrases which in an English 
translation were incorporated in the paraphrase of the New 
Testament ordered in 1 5 47 to be put in every parish church. 

1 F. g ii verso. 

l 9 





In his History of the English Bible Westcott writes : 'Before the 
end of the 15 th century Bibles were printed in Spanish, 
Italian, French, Dutch, German and Bohemian; while 
England as yet had only the few manuscripts of the Wycliffite 
versions.' 1 That England in the next century had a printed 
Bible in English was primarily due to William Tyndale, who 
put into practice the ideas being promulgated by Colet and by 
Erasmus. The facts of Tyndale's early life are only vaguely 
known, being largely deduced from the account given by 
John Foxe in his Actes and Monuments familiarly known as his 
'Book of Martyrs'. 2 We know, however, that he was granted 
the degree of B. A. in 1 5 1 2 and M. A. in 1 5 1 5 by Oxford Uni- 
versity, and since Foxe speaks of him as ' brought up from a 
child in the University of Oxford' and as having been in Mag- 
dalen Hall as well as in Magdalen College, he cannot but have 
felt the lasting influence of Colet, who had left Oxford in 1 505 
when he was appointed Dean of Saint Paul's. 3 From Oxford 
Tyndale went on to Cambridge. His latest biographer, J. F. 
Mozley, thinks he moved there in 1 5 19, but it may have been 
as early as 15 16. At any rate, Erasmus's New Testament was 
known and was the subject of dispute in this university where 
Erasmus had taught from 1 5 10 to 1 5 14. At some time during 
his university years Tyndale was ordained, but when he left 

1 Brooke F. Westcott, A General View of the History of the English Bible, 3rd ed. 
revised by W. Aldis Wright (New York, 1922), p. 25. 

* For accounts of Tyndale's life see J. F. Mozley, William Tyndale (London, 
1937), and the earlier work which it does not entirely supersede, R. Demaus, 
William Tyndale, revised by R. Lovett (London, 1886). The Foxe account is 
quoted by Mozley, p. 12, and by Demaus, pp. 33-4. That Tyndale was also 
known as Hutchins, both names spelled with characteristic lack of uniformity, is 
an established fact. See especially Mozley, pp. 5-7. 

3 Seebohm, pp. 83-4. 



the university life it was to go as schoolmaster to the young 
children of Sir John Walsh, though he is known to have done 
preaching also. While a member of this household Tyndale, 
desiring to answer the disputants at his employer's table with 
authority greater than his own, translated the Enchiridion militis 
Christiani of Erasmus, 1 which, read and used by ' his master and 
lady', caused 'the great prelates' to be less frequently invited 
to their house and to be made less comfortable when they did 
come, if we believe Foxe. It was a book to be issued in many 
English editions between 1533 and 1576. J> 

With a letter from his friend and master addressed to Sir 
Harry Guildford, Tyndale went to London in 1523, hoping to 
translate the Bible into English under church authority, and 
hence trying to find a way through Guildford to the Bishop 
of London, Cuthbert Tunstall. It is significant that he took 
with him a translation of an oration of Isocrates to prove his 
ability to turn Greek into English. It would seem likely that 
he, like Erasmus, had wanted to test his own ability on 
' material difficult indeed, but not sacred ', before he undertook 
his ultimate task. But when through Guildford's intercession 
he was given the opportunity to plead his case before Tunstall, 
the bishop answered that his house was full, advising him that 
he could find employment elsewhere in London. While waiting 
to see Tunstall, he had, however, through some good fortune, 
preached a few sermons at Saint Dunstan-in-the-West, Fleet 
Street, and there a wealthy merchant, Humphrey Monmouth, 
heard him and became his friend. Monmouth took him as a 
guest in his house, and when he decided that the work upon 
which he had determined could not proceed anywhere in 
England, helped to make possible his removing to the continent. 

Of the particulars of Tyndale's journeying in his efforts to 
find the means to accomplish his supreme undertaking there 
is no need to write here, but it is necessary to record the fact 
now apparently established that he went from Hamburg, his 
first stopping place, to Wittenberg. There he could find the 
riches of a university, and there he could consult with Luther, 
whose translation of the New Testament into German, pub- 

1 A careful account of the Enchiridion is given by Huizinga, pp. 49-54. 




lished in 1 5 22, was partly based on Erasmus's text. It must be 
remembered that the King of England was then engaged in a 
controversy with Luther which brought him from the Pope 
the title of Defender of the Faith. Erasmus himself had been 
drawn into the quarrel with Luther, but Tyndale drew from 
the works of both, though making his own translation from 
the Greek. Returning from Wittenberg to Hamburg to secure 
the money promised him from England, he at last set out for 
Cologne and there began the printing of the New Testament 
in 1525. Betrayed, he was forced to flee to Worms, where 
sympathy for his undertaking could be found, and in Worms 
the New Testament was printed in 1526. The octavo edition 
printed at Worms was without the prologue and glosses which 
appear in the Cologne fragment. In spite of the efforts of King 
Henry and Cardinal-Chancellor Wolsey, copies of both editions 
reached England in 1526, without, however, any indication of 
the translator. They were eagerly bought and as persistently 
destroyed by the authorities, and edition after edition was 
called for. Tyndale revised his work for the 1534 and the 1535 
editions and proceeded to the translation of the Old Testament 
from the Hebrew, the Pentateuch being published in 1531, the 
book of Jonah probably in the same year, and the epistles from 
the Old Testament added to the 1534 edition of the New. 

In 1528 Tyndale published The Obedience of a Christian Man, 
the book which Demaus describes as, next to his Bible trans- 
lations, ' the book by which he was best known to his contem- 
poraries, that which exerted the greatest influence upon those 
who were friendly to the Reformation, and which gave deepest 
offence to the authorities of the Church ', yet King Henry was 
pleased with it, for it argued the supreme authority of the king 
in the state as well as the supreme authority of the Bible in the 
church. 1 Tyndale here opposed the authority claimed by the 
pope in the state and also the authority of those who claimed 
the right to give the people only an interpretation of the Bible 
rather than the Bible itself. He ridiculed the requirement for 
the doctor of divinity that he ' have been two yeres maister of 

1 Demaus gives the most comprehensive description of the work and its 



art' before he could study God's word, and threw scorn upon 
the variety of interpretations that were offered for the plain 
words of the Bible. As for the curates, he thought they knew 
nothing of what the Bible meant, arguing : ' If they will not let 
the lay man have the woorde of God in hys mother tounge, yet 
let the priests have it, which for a great part of them do under- 
stand no latine at all ; but sing, and say and patter all day with the 
lips only, that which the hart understandeth not.' As for the 
English language not being fitted for the translation of Greek 
and Hebrew, he insisted that it agreed better with both tongues 
than did the Latin. 

Two passages in Tyndale's prefatory address are of particular 
interest here, for they show that he, like Jerome and Erasmus, 
wanted to make the Bible the familiar accompaniment of life. 
The first finds precedent in the speech of Moses to the Israelites 
in the sixth chapter of Deuteronomy : ' Let these wordes which I 
commaunde thee thys day sticke fast in thine hart, & whet them 
on thy children, & talke of them as thou sittest in thine house, 
as thou walkest by the way, & when thou lyest downe, & when 
thou risest up, & binde them for a token to thyne hand, & let 
them be a remembraunce betwene thine eyes, & write them on 
the postes & gates of thine house.' But, Tyndale asks, 'How 
can we whette Gods word (that is, to put it in practise, use, 
& exercise) upon our children and housholds when we are 
violently kepte from it, and knowe it not? '* The second passage 
which I quote compares the popular secular reading of the day 
with that offered by the Bible: 

this threatning and forbidding the laye people to reade the Scripture 
is not for love of your soules ... in as much as they permitte and 
suffer you to read Robbin Hode & Bevis of Hampton, Hercules, 
Hector, and Troylus, with a thousand histories and fables of love 
and wantones, and of rybaudry, as filthy as hart can thinke, to 
corrupt the mindes of youth withall, cleane contrary to the doctrine 
of Christ and of his Apostles. 

The fount from which Tyndale drew his arguments is indicated 
in his closing paragraph, which advises the reader that 'A thou- 

1 The Obedience of a Christian Man in The Whole Works of W. Tyndall, John Frith, 
and Doct. Barnes, printed by John Joye (London, 1573), pp. 101-2. 



sand reasons moe might be made (as thou mayst see in Paracusis 
Erasmi, & in his preface to the paraphrasis of Mathew) unto 
which they should be compelled to holde their peace, or to 
geve shamefull aunsweres'. 1 

This new emphasis on the Bible as the one book from which 
Christians should derive nourishment and the insistence upon 
its being made available to all men and women in their native 
tongues were concepts made familiar by the teaching of Savona- 
rola and Colet, Saint Jerome and Erasmus, and were those 
which determined the creation of an English Bible and the 
attempt to substitute it for the secular and pagan reading then 

These works of Tyndale brought the answer of Sir Thomas 
More usually referred to as the Dialogue against Tyndale, which 
was published in 1528 and summarized the Catholic position. 
Reviewing the regulations which had followed the heresies 
attendant upon Wycliffe's earlier version of the Scriptures, 
More used the traditional arguments : Adam's being prohibited 
the tree of knowledge, Moses's talking with God on the moun- 
tain top and bringing the law down to the people, Paul's division 
of the church into teachers and hearers, Plato's prohibiting 
young men from disputing even temporal laws. He warns: 

And thus in these matters, if the common people might be bold to 
claim it, as ye say, and to dispute it; then should ye have the more 
blind the more bold, the more ignorant the more busy, the less wit 
the more inquisitive, the more fool the more talkative of great doubts 
and high questions of holy scripture, and of God's great and secret 
mysteries — and this, not soberly of any good affection, but presump- 
tuously and unreverently at meat and at meal. And there, when the 
wine were in and the wit out, would they take upon them with 
foolish words and blasphemy to handle holy scripture in more 
homely manner than a song of Robin Hood. 2 

The issues apparent in the long fight over the translation of 
the Bible continued to be those apparent in the More-Tyndale 
controversy: whether the Bible should be translated at all; 
whether if it were to be translated it should be translated in- 

1 P. 104. 

2 The Dialogue concerning Tyndale, by Sir Thomas More, ed. with introd. by 
W. E. Campbell and an essay by A. W. Reed (London, 1927), p. 246. 



dependently, without the authority of the church; whether it 
should be freely read by all, laymen and clerics alike. But of 
the history of this conflict and of the progress of the Bible in 
English I cannot treat here. Tyndale was to suffer martyrdom 
in 1 5 3 6, but just one year later the Bible in English was legalized 
and, as Westcott records, ' by far the greater part of his trans- 
lation remains intact in our present Bibles'. Of supreme im- 
portance, it was Tyndale's influence which 'decided that our 
Bible should be popular and not literary, speaking in a simple 
dialect, and that by its simplicity it should be endowed with 
permanence'. 1 

In 1582 the principle of fighting fire with fire was demon- 
strated when English Catholics were offered a New Testament, 
the title of which describes clearly its purpose : 

The New Testament of Jesus Christ, Translated faithfully into 
English, out of the authentical Latin, according to the best corrected 
copies of the same, diligently conferred with the Greeke and other 
editions in divers languages : With arguments of books and chapters, 
annotations, and other necessarie helpes, for the better understanding 
of the text, and specially for the discoverie of the corruptions of 
clivers late translations, and for clearing the controversies in religion, 
of these daies: in the English College of Rhemes. 

The preface answers those arguments which had been advanced 
for the opening of the Bible to everyone, and the answer often 
comes as a direct reply to those who continued to repeat the 
ideas and the words of Erasmus and Tyndale. This can be seen 
when it is asked whether the reader can think 

that our forefathers suffered every schole-maister, scholer, or 
Grammarian that had a little Greeke or Latin, straight to take in 
hand the holy Testament : or that the translated Bibles into the vulgar 
tonges were in the handes of every husbandman, artificer, prentice, 
boies, girles, mistresse, maide, man: that they were sung, plaied, 
alleaged, of euery tinker, taverner, rimer, minstrel : that they were 
for table talke, for alebenches, for boates and barges, and for every 
prophane person and companie. No, in those better times men were 
neither so ill, nor so curious of them selves so to abuse the blessed 
booke of Christ: neither was there any such easy meanes before 
printing was invented, to disperse the copies into the handes of 
euery man, as now there is. 

1 Westcott, p. 158. 



It is in point here to quote one more passage from the preface, 
one that gives clear evidence of the growth before 1582 of a 
literature based on the English Bible as well as evidence of the 
opposition to it : 

Looke whether the most chast and sacred sentences of Gods holy 
word, be not turned of many, into mirth, mockerie, amorous ballets 
& detestable letters of love and lewdnes : their delicate rimes, tunes, 
and translations much encreasing the same. 




Miles Coverdale had worked with Tyndale as a 
fellow-exile in Hamburg ; like Tyndale, he had visited 
Luther in Wittenberg; and when in 1535 he pub- 
lished the first complete Bible in English, his translation clearly 
reflected Tyndale's version so far as Tyndale had been permitted 
to go. Coverdale's Bible was dedicated to King Henry VIII 
with good wishes extended also to his * dearest just wyfe, and 
most vertuous pryncess, Quene Anne'. Anne Boleyn had been 
a faithful advocate of a Bible in English, and whether her 
advocacy was prejudicial to Coverdale's cause or no, the Bible 
of Coverdale, in which the King had showed great interest, 
appeared without the notation on the title-page of its being 
printed with the King's licence, and Anne became the first of 
the King's wives to die on the scaffold. Yet the Bible was not 
suppressed, and the dedication with the queen's name changed 
to Jane reappeared in the next edition. 1 Finally in 1537 the so- 
called Matthew's Bible bore on its title-page the King's licence. 
The printed Bible in English had become legal. 

Coverdale's contribution to the new movement for a divine 
literature in English went beyond his publication of the first 
complete English text of the Bible, however, for he published 
also what seems to have been the first rival collection of songs 
in open opposition to the popularity of secular verse in English. 
Not only were old romances and tales of Robin Hood along 
with the still older writings of pagan antiquity finding favour, 
but also the new toys of amorous verse and secular song from 
the continent were furnishing inspiration and patterns to English 
writers. The courtiers at Henry's court took up the fashion of 
composing lyrics and, as Chambers notes, 'the making of 
" balletes " was by no means left to such professional exponents 

1 Coverdale's disappointment is discussed in the Introduction to The English 
Hexapla (London, n.d.), pp. 23-4. 

2 7 


of the art as William Cornish of the Chapel Royal and John 
Heywood. Henry himself made them, and it was the last nail 
in the coffin of Anne Boleyn that she turned his attempts to 
derision. The courtiers took up the fashion; Anne's brother 
Lord Rochford, Thomas Lord Vaux, Lord Thomas Howard, 
Sir Francis Bryan, Sir Anthony Lee.' 1 And of course there were 
Sir Thomas Wyatt and Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, whose 
names are almost the only ones familiar today. But the writing 
and singing of songs was not confined to the court. Ballads 
of the popular sort were also being written as well as sung by 
those who were not likely to be aware of the * courtiers' trifles ' 
written in imported verse forms. 

How early the printing of the new poetry began remains 
uncertain. Until recent scholarship unearthed fragments of 
two earlier collections of lyric poetry in England, A Boke of 
Balettes and The Courte of Venus > it was customary to count the 
Songes and Sonnettes published by Tottel in 1 5 5 7 as the first great 
landmark in the progress of lyric poetry during the English 
Renaissance. Yet these two earlier works or similar ones yet 
undiscovered must have been published during earlier Tudor 
reigns, 2 for we have evidence in the opposition they roused. 

Over and over again we hear those who would offer a 
substitute for secular song quoting the Apostle Paul's words : 

And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess ; but be filled with 
the Spirit; speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual 
songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord 
(Eph. v. 18, 19). 

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching 
and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual 
songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord (Col. iii. 16). 

And almost as often we hear the like admonition of James : 
'Is any merry? let him sing psalms' (Jas. v. 13). 3 Saint Jerome 

1 E. K. Chambers, Sir Thomas Wyatt and Some Collected Studies (London, 1933), 
p. 99. 

2 The discovery of fragments of these early works is recounted by Chambers, 
ibid. pp. 111-16 and especially notes i and 2 on p. 113, and pp. 207-27. 

4 Unless otherwise stated, I have used quotations from the King James or 
Authorized Version of the Bible in this work where no question of wording 
seems significant. 



had recorded the habit of making psalms the accompaniment 
of daily life in his ' little villa of Christ ', Erasmus had been ' of 
the same oppynon & mynde, which saynte Hierome was of 
as he hoped it might come to pass that labours of the plough- 
man, the weaver, the master of the ship, the housewife might 
be accompanied by Biblical song and story. Tyndale had echoed 
the words of Erasmus in pleading his own hopes for Christen- 
dom. Savonarola had set a precedent in having his spiritual 
songs sung to the tunes of the carnival songs which he wished 
to displace. 

As I have said, probably the greatest of those who acknow- 
ledged the leadership of Savonarola was Martin Luther, to 
whose work Coverdale was largely indebted. Certainly Luther 
followed the example set by Savonarola when he came to the 
task of creating new divine songs for the German people and 
having them sung to popular tunes. The problem of creating a 
rival to secular song was one that he long considered, and it is 
recorded in the Colloquia Mensalia: 

Luther bade his Harper (at that time) plaie such a lesson as David 
plaid, I am persuaded (said he) if David now arose from the dead, 
so would hee much admire, how this Art of Musick is com to so 
great and an excelling height. Shee neuer came higher than now 
shee is. How is it (said Luther) that in Camalibus, wee haue so many 
fine Poemata & Carmina, . . .but in Spiritualibus . . .wee have such old 
and rotten things. 1 

Luther set about solving his problem systematically, as is 
evident in his letter to Spalatin: 

There is a plan afoot to follow the example of the prophets and fathers 
of the early Church and compose for the common people German 
psalms, that is spiritual songs, so that the Word of God may remain 
among the people in the form of song also. We are seeking every- 
where for poets, and since you are gifted with such knowledge of the 
German language and command so elegant a style, cultivated by 
much use, I beg that you will work with us in the matter. . .1 wish 
that you would leave out all new words and words that are only 

1 Martin Luther, Colloquia Mensalia, trans, by Capt. Henrie Bell (London, 
165 2), p. 500. For a history of the work see Preserved Smith, Luther's Table Talk: 
A Critical Study (New York, 1907). 



used at court. In order to be understood by the people, only the 
simplest and commonest words should be sung, but they should 
also be pure and apt and give a clear sense, as near as possible to 
that of the Psalter. 

In 1 5 24 the book of spiritual songs was published, two years 
after the German translation of the New Testament, Luther's 
preface explaining that he greatly desired 'the youth, who 
certainly should and must be trained in music and other proper 
and useful arts, to have something whereby they may be weaned 
away and freed from the love ballads and worldly (carnal) songs, 
and instead of these learn something wholesome and beneficial'. 1 

The Catholic Church had, of course, used song in its services, 
but the hymns and sequences were in Latin and were sung by 
the priests and choristers. Luther's hymn book was written in 
the vernacular, and the hymns could be sung by the whole 
congregation in the services of the church or by those who 
wished them as accompaniment to the round of their daily 

Miles Coverdale, like Luther, was the first to give his country- 
men a complete Bible. Like Luther also he was the first to 
offer to his countrymen a collection of songs to rival the new 
secular poetry. Apparently some time before 1 5 3 8 2 his Goostlj 
Psalms and Spirituall Songes was printed, and most of the pieces 
in his collection have been traced to Luther's German originals. 
He prefaced his work by three quotations, the one from 
Colossians and the one from James (already quoted here) and 
one from Psalm cxlvi. The envoy ' To the Boke ' announced his 
purpose : 

1 The letter is quoted by F. Eby, 'Early Protestant Educators (New York and 
London, 1931), pp. 156-7, from the translation by Preserved Smith and C. N. 
Jacobs in Luther's Correspondence and Other Contemporary Letters. For Luther's 
preface see Works of Martin Luther, printed for the United Lutheran Church in 
America (Philadelphia, 1932), vol. vi, pp. 283-4. 

* Attached to the copy of Coverdale's work which I saw in the Bodleian 
Library, where it was on loan from the Queen's College as part of the Music Ex- 
hibition, is a manuscript note dated 11. 12. 29. from Lieut.-Col. Isaac, signed F.S. 
Isaac, which says, 'The boke of the goostly psalms has preliminary matter, 
including Coverdale's preface, printed in a different and later type, than the 
psalms and music. The psalms begin at a 1 . Both words and music are in J. Rastel's 
type which is worn. The ink on a x -f is faded. The omission of "ad imprimendum 
solum" in the colophon puts the date of the printing before the act of 1538.' 



Go lytle boke, get the acquaintaunce 
Amonge the lovers of Gods worde 
Geve them occasyon the same to avaunce 
And to make theyr songes of the Lorde 
That they may thrust under the borde 
All other balettes of fylthynes 
And that we all with one accorde 
May geve ensample of godlynes. 

The prefaced address to 'the Christen reader' followed closely 
the plea of Erasmus : 

would God that our mynstrels had none other thynge to playe upon, 
nether our carters & plow men othe thynge to whistle upon, save 
Psalmes, hymnes, and such godly songes as David is occupied 
with all. And yf women syttynge at theyr rockes, or spynnynge at 
the wheles, had none other songes to passe theyr tyme withall, 
than soch as Moses sister, Elchanas wife, Debora, and Mary the 
mother of Christ have song before them, they shulde be better 
occupied, then with hey nony nony, hey trely loly, & soch lyke 

His purpose was made further explicit: 

to geve oure youth of Englonde some occasion to chaunge theyr 
foule & corrupte balettes into swete songes and spirituall Hymnes 
of Gods honoure, and for theyr owne consolacion in hym, I have 
here (good reader) set out certayne comfortable songes grounded 
on Gods worde, and taken some out of the holy scripture, specyally 
out of the Psalmes of David, At whom wolde God that oure Musi- 
cians wolde lerne to make theyr songes: & that they which are 
disposed to be mery, wolde in theyr myrth folowe the councell of 
saynt Paule and saynt James and not to passe theyr tyme in naughty 
songes of fleshly love and wantonesse, but with syngnge of Psalmes 
and soch songes as edifye, & corrupte not mens conversacyon. 

'As for the comen sorte of balettes which are now used in 
the world/ Coverdale asked, 'Corrupte they not the manners 
of yonge persones ? Do they not tangle them in the snares of 
unclennesse? ' And he gave a particular warning to the courtier 
not to rejoice in naughty songs. 

The Dictionary of Hymnology describes the contents of the 
Coverdale book: 'Following Luther's large-hearted adoption 
of materials from many sources, it contains Psalm versions, 



paraphrases of Latin hymns, and fifteen other hymns.' 1 Airs 
were provided to which the poems were to be sung, but it is 
to be noted that, instead of using the new verse forms being 
introduced from Italy and France, Coverdale imitated the 
German originals of the poems. The stanzas of four, seven, 
nine, ten, and thirteen lines striving for an iambic pace are 
arranged with a variety of rhyme schemes, with occasionally 
'Kirieleyson' and 'Alleluya' as refrains. Though the 'palettes' 
were, as he confessed, 'rude in songe and ryme', the purpose 
with which he sent them forth and the precedent which they 
established make them significant in the history of the creation 
of a divine literature. That Coverdale published in 1545 an 
abridgement of Erasmus's Enchiridion is but one indication of 
that writer's influence in his work. 

Certainly by 1 5 42 the popularity of romantic story and love 
poetry was sufficient to cause Thomas Becon in his Golden Boke 
of Christen Matrimonye to offer the Psalms and * godly songs ' as 
an antidote, for advising 'How daughters and may dens must 
be kept', he wrote: 

lette them not reade bokes of fables, of fond and lyght love, but call 

upon God to have pure hartes and chaste Bokes of Robyn Hood, 

Beves of Hampton, Troylus, & such lyke fables do but kyndle in 

lyers lyke lyes and wanton love If ye delyght to synge songes ye 

have the Psalmes and many godly songes & bokes in Englysh right 
frutefull & swett. 

He was bitter that now ' to synge vayne songes of rybaudry, 
is called good pastyme'. 

Becon saw the singing of the Psalms, not as isolated for 
periods of devotion, but as the proper accompaniment of all 
the activities of daily life, for he notes in Davids Harpe (pub- 
lished also in 1542): 

Would God that all men of honour would nourish such minstrels 
in their houses, as David is, and that might sing unto them both at 
dinner and supper, yea, and at all other times, these most sweet and 
delectable songs of David ! so should both they and all their family 

1 John Julian (London, 191 5), pp. 264-70. The article on Coverdale is by 
H. L. Bennett. A. F. Mitchell in his Introduction to the Scottish Text Soc. 
edition of A Compendious Book of Godly and Spiritual Songs (Edinburgh and London, 
1897) discusses the relation of Coverdale's book to the Scottish work. 



be disposed to live more virtuously than many be now-a-days, and 
be provoked to leave their pompous, gallant, wicked, venereal, 
fleshly, beast-like, and unclean manner of living. Would God also 
that all fathers and mothers, all masters and mistresses, would bring 
up their children and servants in the singing of these most godly 
songs! Again, would God that all schoolmasters and teachers of 
youth would, instead of Virgil, Ovid, Horace, Catullus, Tibullus, 
Propertius, &c, teach these verses of David! For so should they 
not only obtain eloquence, but also divine erudition, godly know- 
ledge, spiritual wisdom, and increase in all kind of virtue. 1 

It is noteworthy too that he here wishes to substitute scripture 
for the great Latin classics in the schoolroom. 

Becon, in dedicating The New Pollecye of Warre to Sir Thomas 
Wyatt, offered it in part ' forasmuch as ye have ever hitherto 
earnestly embraced not only the studies of human letters, but 
also the grave exercises of divine literature' . Chambers com- 
ments on Becon's attack on the Court of Venus as a ' filthy ' book 
in the 1 5 64 edition of his works that he does not appear con- 
scious that one of the contributors was the Sir Thomas Wyatt 
to whom he dedicated the book on war in 1 542, but Chambers 
was unaware that the Golden Boke of Christen Matrimonye had 
been published in 1542 and again in 1543, and that Becon in 
these early editions had written vigorously against the new 
secular poetry. 2 

1 Parker Soc. edition of The Early Works of Thomas Becon (Cambridge, 1 843), 
p. 267. 

2 S.T.C. nos. 1723 and 1724. Why Chambers failed to note these earlier editions 
is a mystery. 




The courtiers at Henry the Eighth's court were indeed, 
much as Chambers said, given to the writing of balettes ', 
but literary historians have been curiously affected with a 
critical astigmatism which makes them generally disregard a 
massive component of the lyric poetry which they wrote. Yet 
the courtiers, as well as those about the court who cannot be 
styled courtiers but who were attached to the court by some 
more or less official position, were producing a quite consider- 
able amount of sacred poetry and sacred song, and those about 
the young Edward VI when he came to be king followed the 
habit enthusiastically. To give a complete account of this poetry 
would take a volume about as large as Julian's Dictionary of 
v/ Hymnology, and I can here undertake only the more humble task 
of attempting to show the spirit in which the ideal was main- 
tained which had been set by the example of Jerome in his 
'little villa of Christ' and by Savonarola in his Spiritual Songs, 
and proclaimed by Erasmus and Tyndale. Coverdale had 
followed Luther in setting forth his work, but the great stream 
of English divine poetry during the century did not spring 
from Germany, for English poetry in general did not find its 
models there. 

Padelford has summed up the contributions of the Earl of 
Surrey and Sir Thomas Wyatt, c the most distinguished poets 
of the early Renaissance school ', saying that 'Attentive readers 
of the contemporary French, Italian, and Spanish poets and 
emulous of their achievements, they moderni2ed English pro- 
sody and experimented successfully with poetry of various 
types'. 1 Even C. S. Lewis, who refuses to use the word Renais- 
sance 2 except in quotation marks, and who classes Wyatt and 

1 F. M. Padelford, The Poems of Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, revised edition, 
University of Washington Publications: Language and Literature , vol. 5 (Seatrie, 1928), 
p. 44. 

2 English Literature in the Sixteenth Century (Oxford, 1954), pp. 55-6. 



Surrey among the 'drab' poets, does concede that 'the grand 
function of the Drab Age poets was to build a firm metrical 
highway out of the late medieval swamp'. 1 At any rate, recent 
critics agree with Padelford that the ' greater credit for achieving 
these reforms must be given to Sir Thomas Wyatt rather than 
to the younger poet'. 2 Both poets made their contribution to 
divine poetry, and here I think that of Wyatt must again be 
considered as more important than that of Surrey. 

In 1542 Becon, as we have already seen, commended Wyatt 
as one who had ' embrased not only the studies of humaine 
letters, but also the grave exercises of divine literature'. Since 
Wyatt died in 1542, his poetry obviously pre-dated that year, 
but his divine poetry was not published as far as we know until 
1549, when I. Raynold and John Harrington printed Certayne 
Psalmes chosen out of the Psalter of David commonlye called the vii 
Penytentiall Psalmes, drawen into englysche meter by Sir Thomas 
Wyat Knight, , 3 The work is quite different from Coverdale's. 
Coverdale wanted the people to sing songs of Godly content 
instead of the 'naughty songs' he was hearing; Wyatt put 
the Psalms into the stream of English literature, using the verse 
forms which he had brought from the continent to England. 

In 1527 Wyatt had travelled to Italy as a member of an 
embassy to the papal court, and it has been popularly assumed 
that it was this visit which inspired him to introduce into 
English verse the sonnet, ter^a rima, and ottava rima. When he 
became acquainted with the Italian prose version of the Peni- 
tential Psalms of Aretino which were published in 1536 is 

T P- 237. 

2 P. 44. See also Kenneth Muir, Collected Poems of Sir Thomas Wyatt (London, 
1949), pp. xvii-xviii, and E. M. W. Tillyard, The Poetry of Sir Thomas Wyatt 
(London, 1929), p. 55. 

3 The name is spelled Harryngton in this edition, but his son's (Sir John's) is 
usually spelled with one r. The manuscript sources for Wyatt's poems are sum- 
marized by Tillyard, pp. 5 1-2 and 149, but all accounts are indebted to Miss A. K. 
Foxwell's Study. In her edition, The Poems of Sir Thomas Wiat (London, 191 3), 
vol. 11, p. 133, she stated that no copy of the 1549 edition was extant, and 
Tillyard echoed the statement, p. 52. However, two copies are registered in the 
S.T.C. (no. 2726) as in Cambridge libraries. I have not seen a copy but am in- 
debted to Professor William Jackson for information concerning it and Muir 
records the title, p. 275. No. 2727 is apparently a ghost. Miss Foxwell chose to 
use the spelling Wiat throughout her work. 

3 5 3-2 


uncertain, but it was on the plan devised by Aretino of setting 
these Psalms in a narrative framework that he constructed his 
own arrangement. However, Miss Foxwell says that 'Aretino 
ceases to become a model in the substance of the Psalms. Then 
Wiat relies upon the English version, and keeps close to the 
Great Bible, or to the 1530 Psalter', 1 the prose Psalter which 
according to the colophon had been ' Emprinted at Argentine ' 
(perhaps Strassburg), and the title-page of which records it as 
translated after f the text of fTeline' (Martin Bucer). The impetus 
to this particular task was probably furnished by Wyatt's visit 
as part of an embassy to the French Court in 1539, f° r ^ was 
then, Miss Foxwell says, that ' on the occasion of the Emperor's 
passing through France to the Netherlands, C. Marot presented 
these Psalms to Charles V'. 2 

It seems well at this moment to turn briefly to consider the 
contribution of Clement Marot, a poet who turned to reform 
and ultimately to Calvinism, rather than a reformer who turned 
to poetry; an expert in 'courtiers' trifles', who established the 
Psalms as great poetry in the vernacular. It will be remembered 
that Marguerite of Angouleme, later Queen of Navarre, the 
sister of Francois of France, had been, with her brother, 
sympathetic to the reforming movement in religion, and though 
she never left the Catholic Church, had been less yielding than 
he to political pressures in regard to the products of that move- 
ment. Anne Boleyn had been one of her maids of honour, and 
Anne's daughter, the little Princess Elizabeth, later translated 
one of her poems into English as A Godly Medjtacyon of the 
Christen Sowle, seen into print in 1548 by John Bale 3 with a 
dedication to the translator. A metrical version of Psalm xiv 
was appended. Marguerite wrote Biblical dramas which, with 
'Le Miroir' and other poems, were published as Marguerites 

1 Foxwell, Poems y vol. n, p. 136. Another possible source was proposed by 
H. A. Mason, 'Wyatt and the Psalmes', London, Times Lit. Sup. 27 February 
1953, p. 144. 

* Foxwell, vol. n, p. 135. 

3 Bale wrote in his dedication: 'I receyved your noble boke ryght frutefully 
of you translated out of the frenche tunge into Englysh. I receyved also your 
golden sentences out of the sacred scriptures, with no lesse grace than lernynge 
in foure 1 oble languages, Latyne, Greke, Frenche, & Italyane, most ornately, 
fynely, & purely with your owne hande.' 



[Pear/s] de la Marguerite, and Clement Marot was for a time valet 
de chambre to her before he became valet de chambre to her 
brother King Francois. 

When Marot's Psaumes de David was published with a dedica- 
tion to King Francois, the humanist scholar is apparent in his 
proclaiming God as David's Apollo, the Holy Ghost as his 
Calliope, heaven as his Parnassus, and when he measures 
David's poems against those of Homer and Horace. However, 
when he follows this dedication by an address c Aux dames de 
¥ ranee ' we hear once more the familiar plea of Erasmus : 
O bien hereux qui veoir pourra 

Fleurir le temps, que Ton orra 

Le laboureur a sa charrue, 

Le charretier parmy la rue, 

Et Partisan en sa boutique, 

Avecques un pseaume ou cantique 

En son labeur se soulager! 

Heureux qui orra le berger 

Et la bergere au boys estans 

Faire que rochers & estangs, 

Apres eulx chantent la haulteur 

Du sainct nom de leur Createur! 1 
Marot's Psalms were set to music popular in that day, and 
they became the rage at court and in the country. Margaret 
Walker Freer recorded some of the queer alliances : ' Diane de 
Poitiers sang the psalm commencing with the words " Dufond 
de ma pensee" set to the popular dance tune, " Le Branle de 
Poitou"; and Catherine de Medici, in allusion to her husband's 
infidelities, profanely appropriated the sixth psalm, arranged 
to the air "Des BoufTons", "Ne veuilles pas, 6 Sire, etc."' 2 
Francois accepted the dedication, and the Psalms maintained 
their popularity in spite of the Sorbonne and many of the clergy. 
The modifications that they had to undergo after Marot fled to 
Geneva, Calvin's theories about church music, and Beze's 

1 See Waldo S. Pratt, The Significance of the Old French Psalter Begun by Clement 
Marot in 1532. Papers of the Hymn Society, no. 4 (New York, 1933). I have quoted 
from Les Oeuvres de Clement Marot, ed. J. Plattard (Paris, 193 1), vol. v, pp. 195, 
200. On Spenser and Marot see The Shepheardes Calendar, ed. W. L. Renwick 
(London, 1930), pp. 176, 180, 220. 

J The Life of Marguerite d'Angouleme, Queen of Navarre, Duchesse d'Alenfon and 
De Berry (Cleveland and London, 1895), p. 278. 



contributions are not in place here, but the manner in which a 
vernacular Psalter had its beginnings in France has a bearing on 
the history of the translation of the Psalms into English. 

Tillyard says that Wyatt wrote his English poems in Italian 
or French forms ' to show that an English poet could compete 
with the foreigner on his own ground', and that when he 
translated the Psalms he matched himself with Marot and 
Aretino. 1 Since Wyatt did not publish his version of the Seven 
Penitential Psalms himself, and the dedication comes from their 
publisher, John Harrington, the only basis on which we can 
build any surmise as to his intent is the general tone of the 
poetry, together with the sonnet written by Surrey and inscribed 
as a preface to them in the manuscript used by Miss Foxwell 
in her edition of his poetry, from which I quote: 2 

The great Macedon that out of Perse chasyd 
Darius, of whose huge power all Asy rang, 
In the riche arke of Homers rymes be placyd, 
The fayned gestes of Hethen Prynces sang. 

What holly grave, what wourthy sepulture, 

To Wyates Psalmes shud Christians then purchase? 
When he dothe paynte the lyvely faythe, and pure : 
The stedfast hoope the swete returne to grace 

Of just Davyd, by parfite penytence: 

Where Rewlers may se in a myrror clere 
The bitter frewte of false concupiscence, 
From Jewry bought Uryas deathe full dere. 

In Prynces hartes goddes scourge yprynted depe 
Myght them awake out of their synfull slepe. 

Wyatt wrote a prologue in ottava rima to each of the seven 
Psalms, the prologues forming a narrative to give significance 
to the Psalms, as can be seen in this first stanza of the first 
prologue : 

Love to gyve law unto his subject hertes 

Stode in the lyes of Barsabe the bryght, 
And in a look anone hymsellfT convertes 
Cruelly pleasant byfore Kyng David syght; 

1 Tillyard, p. 22. 

2 The Penitential Psalms are printed in vol. 1, pp. 203-50, Psalm xxxvii in 
the preceding pages 197-202. Muir separates the Sackville sonnet from the 
Wyatt Psalms, pp. xxxiii, 203-26. 



First dasd his lyes, and forder forth he stertes 
With venemed breth, as sofftly as he myght 
Towcht his sensis, and over ronne his bonis 
With creping fyre, spasplid for the nonis. 

Love enters through the eyes as Plato would have it, and Wyatt 
tells of David's lust, of his sending ' Urye ' to his certain death, 
of the prophet Nathan's chiding 'By murder for to clok 
Adulterye', and of David's repentance, so that, 

His harpe he taketh in hand to be his guyde, 

Wherewith he ofTereth his plaintes, his sowle to save. 

The sixth of the Psalms closes with the prophetic hope that the 
Lord will redeem Israel, and the seventh prologue takes the 
theme offered by the word redeem, departing from Aretino's 
prose link, to picture David 'As in a traunce' foreseeing the 
coming of Christ to effect his salvation. 

Surrey's sonnet compared David with Homer, Wyatt's seven 
prologues in ottava rima told David's story, and it remained for 
the seven Psalms rendered in ter^a rima to complete this offering 
of divine poetry in the verse forms newly imported from Italy 
and established in secular poetry for long years thereafter. 
Wyatt also translated Psalm xxxvii in ter^a rima, seemingly 
having decided upon this form as that most appropriate to the 
songs of David. 

Surrey's fame rests chiefly upon his use of a sonnet form 
which Shakespeare perfected and upon his introduction of 
blank verse in his translation of two books of the Aeneid, but 
he did not use these metrical patterns in his translations from 
the Bible of the first five chapters of Ecclesiastes and of four 
Psalms — viii, lv, lxxiii, and lxxxviii. In these he used poulter's 
measure, except in Psalm lv, where he experimented with an 
unrhymed hexameter verse. Surrey's translations are very free, 
and the last three are very personal. Psalms lxxiii and lxxxviii 
have each a prologue which emphasizes their personal applica- 
tion, and it is worthy of note that Surrey, a member of a great 
Catholic family, was here writing his translations as a means to 
expressing his own grief, not as a means to furnishing a rival 
poetry to pagan and secular verse. Yet in the prologue to 
Wyatt's Psalms, he had contrasted the superior claims of poetry 




for Christians of these songs of David over ' Homer's rymes ', 
which * The fayned gestes of Hethen Prynces sang '. The defenders 
of putting the Psalms into English all claimed that in the Psalms 
could be found guidance for men's lives as well as a response to 
every emotional need. It is in this way that Surrey used them, 
as a very present help in time of trouble. The exception is 
found in Psalm viii, which asks in other words, ' What is man, 
that thou art mindful of him?' as he rehearses the wonders 
which the Lord has wrought. It is not, I think, right to call it, 
as Surrey's latest biographer calls it, 'polite verse', 1 but it was 
possibly written before serious ills befell him, because trans- 
lating the Psalms was a habit at court. Surrey was brought to 
trial and executed in January, 1 547. During the preceding time 
of his imprisonment he turned to the Psalms, addressing the 
prologues of two of them to particular men, one to George 
Blage, with whom Surrey had the quarrel which precipitated 
his trial, and the other to Sir Anthony Denny, one of the 
secretaries of the King, 'who must have had a hand in Surrey's 
downfall' — so Padelford describes them. To Blage he wrote in 
the prologue to Psalm lxxiii : 

But now, my Blage, myne errour well I see; 
Such goodlye light King David giveth me. 

To Denny he addressed the prologue which concluded : 

My Deny, then myne errour, depe imprest, 
Began to worke dispaire of libertye, 
Had not David, the perfyt warriour, tought 
That of my fault thus pardon shold be sought. 

C. S. Lewis says that Surrey's religious works 'are, of course, 
not good', and finds their significance in that he was 'trying 
to reform poulter's measure'. It seems to me that in the face 
of danger and death Surrey was more likely to seek courage 
and consolation in the spiritual message of the Psalms than to 
try to reform the poulter's measure, but I am not a poet. 2 

That there were many others besides Wyatt and Surrey who 
were translating the Psalms in prose and poetry is apparent to 
anyone who reads the Short-Title Catalogue or who seeks the 

1 Edwin Casady, Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey (New York, 1938), p. 208, n. 53. 
* Padelford, pp. 42-3. Lewis, p. 232. 



records of unpublished works, but the most important of the 
translations were those which were to be set to music, as were 
the great number of lyrics at the time. Of the long history of 
psalmody in England I cannot speak here, but of the beginnings 
of the movement to have the English metrical versions of the 
Psalms sung, it is necessary to take note, and those beginnings 
centre about Thomas Sternhold. The way in which his life 
parallels that of Marot has often been noted, for he was groom 
of the chamber to Henry VIII and to Edward VI, as Marot was 
to Marguerite and to Francois I, and his versions were first 
sung at court as were those of Marot. Puttenham wrote that 
'king Henry the 8, her Majesties father, for a few Psalmes of 
David turned into English meetre by Sternhold, made him 
groome of his privy chamber & gave him many other good 
gifts'. 1 Anthony a Wood gave another account, saying that 
'he became so scandaliz'd at the amorous and obscene Songs 
used in the court, that he forsooth turn'd into English meteer 
5 1 of Davids Psalms, and caused musical notes to be set to them, 
thinking thereby that the courtiers Would sing them instead of 
their sonnets, but did not, only some few excepted'. 2 

There has been some cavilling about Wood's statement by 
the more sceptical of modern critics,^ but this is what Sternhold 
said when he dedicated his work to Edward VI, in whose reign 
it was apparently first printed : 4 

Seyng furdre that youre tender and godlyezeale doeth more delyght 
in the holy songes of veritie than in any fayned rymes of vanitie, 
I am encouraged to travayle furdre in the sayed boke of psalmes, 
trustyng that as your grace taketh pleasure to hear them song 
sumtimes of me, so ye wil also delight not onely to see & read them 
your selfe, but also to commaund them to be song to you of others, 
that as ye have the Psalme it selfe in youre mynde, so ye may judge 
myne endevoure by your eare. 

1 G. Gregory Smith, Elizabethan Critical Essays (London, 1904, 1937), vol. n, 
p. 17. 

1 Athenae Oxonienses (London, 1691), vol. 1, col. 62. 

3 Hallett Smith, 'English Metrical Psalms in the Sixteenth Century and their 
Literary Significance ', Huntington Library (Quarterly , vol. ix, pp. 249-71, and 'The 
Art of Sir Thomas Wyatt', pp. 323-55. 

4 The S.T.C. gives as conjectural the date 1547 for Certayne Psalmes chosen out 
of the Psalter of David, <&° drawn into English Metre by Thomas Sternhold grome of the 
hinges magesties Roobes. 




No one, I think, has noticed the reference which goes far to 
confirm Wood's account to be found in William Baldwin's 
dedication to the same king of his metrical version of The 
Canticles or Balades of Salomon [The Song of Songs] published 
in 1549: 

Would god that suche songes myght once drive out of office the 
baudy balades of lecherous love that commonly are indited and song 
of idle courtyers in princes and noble mens houses. They are not 
fine ynough sum will answer: well then woulde I wish that such 
fine felowes would becum course ynough for suche course matters. 
The coursest frise best pleaseth the finest of them in winter. And 
I doubt not but theyr colde soules shoulde be kept warme with these 
course songes, if in the winter of theyr frosen faythe, & clumsed 
charitie, they woulde tunably to syng them. 

Baldwin is known to have been working on plays and pastimes 
presented at the court of Edward VI during the Christmas 
season of 1552-3, and it is reasonable to suppose that as he 
writes of Sternhold to the king in 1 5 49 he knows whereof he 
speaks : 

I speake not this of these balades alone, but of all other of lyke 
matter: as psalmes, and himnes: In which the apostle woulde have 
them rejoice, to be exercised. To whiche your Majesty hath alredy 
geven a notable ensample, in causying the psalmes brought in to fine 
englysh meter, by youre godly disposed servaunt Thomas Stern- 
holde, to be song openly before your grace in the hearyng of all 
your subjectes. Which good example, I beseche GOD all your 
subjectes may have grace to follow. 

It would seem probable that in a Tudor court the courtiers' 
taste would follow the king's. However, Sternhold did not 
write his metrical versions of the Psalms in the verse forms of 
courtly verse, as Wyatt did, but in ballad measures. As Julian 
says, common metre became almost a consecrated measure, 
three-quarters of the Psalms composed by him or his followers, 
Hopkins and Norton, being composed in this metre. 

Most critics have agreed with Thomas Fuller that these 
translators were 'men whose piety was better than their 
poetry; and they drank more of Jordan than of Helicon', but 
nevertheless he thought that their verses ' go abreast with the 



best poems of those times', 1 and John Playford said of their 
verse that 'it was ranked with the best English Poesie at that 
time'. 2 

That the original purpose of Sternhold's work was not lost 
sight of is attested by The Whole Booke of Psalmes with all its 
accretions, published by John Daye in 1 562 which states on the 
title-page that it is 'very mete to be used of all sortes of people 
privately for their solace & comfort: laying apart all ungodly 
Songes and Ballades, which tende only to the norishing of vyce, 
and corrupting of youth'. The title-page, it should be noted, 
bears too the quotations from James and from Paul to the 
Colossians. 3 

Another musician about the court of Edward VI as a member 
of the Chapel Royal was William Hunnis, whose Certayne 
Psalmes drawen into English meter was printed in 1550 by the 
widow of John Herforde for John Harrington, the John 
Harrington who had in 1 5 49 printed Wyatt's Penitential Psalms. 
Hunnis in this edition is called servant to Sir William Herbert, 
but from sometime between 1550 and 1 5 5 3 he became a member 
of the Chapel Royal. Most of his work falls, however, in the 
reign of Elizabeth, to be discussed in the next chapter. This 
early volume of 1 5 5 o contained only a few Psalms in common 
metre, together with certain Biblical songs, and the Complaint 
of a Sinner. * 

William Forrest, a Catholic who wrote a sympathetic poem 
about Queen Katherine and was later chaplain to Queen Mary, 
also wrote versions of the Psalms which should be noted here, 
though they were not printed till the nineteenth century, for 

1 Julian, p. 857; Hallett Smith, p. 250. 

2 Psalms &* Hymns (London, 1671) in prefatory 'Original of Singing Psalms 
in Metre'. 

3 A manuscript note on the 1560 edition in the British Museum catalogue says 
the copy is not complete, but pieced. 

4 Mrs C. C. Stopes in William Hunnis and the Revels of the Chapel Royal: Materialen 
%ur Kunde des alteren Englishen Dramas, vol. 29 (Louvain, 1910). Mrs Stopes 
collected practically all the information available at that time about the Court of 
Venus, the beginnings of English psalmody, and other related matters. About 
Hunnis she remains our chief authority, though she is inclined to credit him with 
more poems and dramas than have generally been thought to be his. See also 
her article 'The Metrical Psalms and the Court of Venus', Athenaeum, 24 June 
1899, pp. 784-6. 



he dedicated his work to the Duke of Somerset, Protector to 
King Edward, and his dedication noted the change that had 
taken place in court music in his time and paid tribute to 
Sternhold : 

Instead of balades dissonaunte and light, 

Godly Psalmes receaved are in place, 

Conveyde in meatre of numbre and feete right, 

As unto ryme apperteyneth the grace, 

Sung to the vyall, lute, treble or base, 

Or other instrument, pleasinge to the eare, 

With whiche commutation ought each man to beare. 

The first that so endevored his payne 
(As I have herde, and perfective doe knowe) 
Was Thomas Sterneholde, by Atropos slayne, 
The pyked beste of Psalmysters rowe, 
Whois stepps dyverse attemptethe to followe, 
And dothe full well, worthye of highe prayse; 
God contynue them in their godlye wayse! 1 

The first to publish the whole Psalter of David translated into 
Englysh metre was Robert Crowley, best known today for having 
printed in 1550 three editions of Piers Plowman. His edition of 
the Psalter was printed by himself in 1 549 and, besides including 
the whole Psalter, he printed ' all the canticles that are usually 
songe in the church'. Crowley's version was made from the 
translation of Leo Juda, and it provided for all the poems to be 
sung to 'a note or song of .iiij. partes, which agreth wyth the 
letre of this Psalter*. The address 'To the Christian Reader' 
stated his purpose € to move the to delyte in the readynge and 
hearynge of these Psalmes, wherein lyeth the most preciouse 
treasure of the christen religion'. 2 

In 1553 Frances Seager published Certayne Psalmes selected 
out of the Psalter of David, anddrawen into "English Metre, with Notes 
to every Psalme in .iiij. partes to Synge. The work was dedicated 
to Lord Russell (later the second Earl of Bedford), the author 
terming himself 'his lordships humble orator'. A poem was 

1 For other work of Forrest see ch. xi. 

1 For accounts of Crowley, see Christina H. Garret, The Marian Exiles 
(Cambridge, 1938), and Albert Paul, Robert Crowley: Puritan, Printer, Poet 
(Manchester, 1937), a lecture to the Presbyterian Historical Society of England. 



appended, 'A Discription of the lyfe of man, the world, and 
vanities thereof' in the common metre. When in 1557 Seager 
published the book by which he is best known, The Schoole of 
Vertue and Booke of Good Nourture for Chyldren and Youth to 
luearne theyr Dutie By, Robert Crowley was joint author and 
seems to have contributed the second section of the book. 
Seager was one of the contributors to the Mirror for Magistrates, 
but it is by his courtesy book rather than by his psalmody or 
his Mirror tragedy that he is remembered. That he and Crowley 
were joint authors of this work and that they both published 
translations of the Psalms is a point of interest, as is the fact that 
one dedicated his translations to Lord Herbert, the other to 
Lord Russell, for it will, I think, become apparent that the 
creation of a Biblical literature was to a great extent undertaken 
by those about the court and those who were attached in some / 
way to the leading figures of the court where the monarch was 
sympathetic to such activity. 




The reign of Mary, 1553-8, inevitably produced a hiatus 
in the publication of Biblical song in the English 
language, but the publication of miscellanies of pre- 
dominantly secular verse — and love poetry at that — proceeded 
apace, with Tottel issuing the volume of Songes and Sonnettes in 
June of 1 5 5 7 and following it with a second edition in July of 
the same year. The Court of Venus was licensed in 1557-8, but 
one or more editions had certainly been printed earlier, for in 
1550 John Hall had attacked it by name, linking it with ' other 
bookes of lecherous Ballades'. The publication of such mis- 
cellanies went steadily on after Elizabeth became Queen and 
provide the great storehouse of Elizabethan lyric poetry known 
to all students of literature. Tottel's book was issued in six new 
editions by 1 587, The Paradise ofDaintie Devises in nine editions 
between 1576 and 1609, and there were others to crowd the 
book-stalls before Francis Davison published in 1602 A Poetical 
Rhapsody, called by Hoyt Hudson ' the last of the Elizabethan 
miscellanies \ x A broadside by Thomas Brice in 1 561-2 shouted 
the indignation of the righteous : 

What meane the rimes that run thus large in every shop to sell? 

With wanton sound, and filthie sense, me thinke it grees not well 

We are not Ethnickes we forsoth, at least professe not so 

Why range we then to Ethnickes trade? come bak, where will ye go? 

Tel me is Christ, or Cupide Lord? doth God or Venus reigne? 

And whose are we? whom ought we serve? I aske it, answere plaine 

If wanton Venus then go forth, if Cupide, keep your trade 

If God, or Christ, come bak the best, or sure you will be made 

Doth God? is he the Lord in deed? and should we him obey? 2 

1 For later reference see Arthur Dent, The Plaine Mans Pathway to Heaven, first 
published in 1601. I have seen the 1603 edition. A summary of facts concerning 
'Elizabethan Miscellanies' is found in J. W. Hebel and Hoyt H. Hudson, Poetry 
of the English Renaissance l^og-1660 (New York, 1929), pp. 947-50. 

* 'Against filthy writing / and such delighting' in the Heber Collection of 
Broadsides and Ballads now in the Huntington Library. 



For some reason it was The Court of Venus that among all the 
miscellanies was attacked by name, perhaps because its very 
title flaunted its wares and gave offence. At the end of Eliza- 
beth's reign it was still being decried by the godly. It remained 
for Hall, however, to provide an anti-body to the work which 
as early as 1 5 50 he had castigated. 1 This he did in The Court of 
Vertue: contaynyng many holy songs, sonnets, psalmes and ballettes, 
which was published in 1565. Nine muses appropriate for help 
to a Christian poet are called upon: virtue, faith, love, hope, 
wisdom, temperance, patience, constancy, and meekness or 
humility. The three Christian graces (Arete, Spes, and Charitas) 
are also invoked, though their functions would seem somewhat 
to overlap those of the muses. At any rate, apparently confident 
of the assistance of this noble hierarchy, Hall ventured into 
vision literature, probably with Sackville's 'Induction' pub- 
lished in the 1 563 edition of the Mirror for Magistrates in mind. 
Twice he dreams, and at last as Hope, Love, and Vertue come 
to him, Vertue recites the evil that men are doing because they 
have forsaken God's word: 

Such as in carnall love rejoyce, 
Trim songes of love they wyll compile, 
And synfully with tune and voyce, 
They syng their songes in pleasant stile, 
To Venus that same strompet vyle: 
And make of hir a goddes dere, 
In lecherie that had no pere. 

A booke also of songes they have, 
And Venus court they do it name, 
No fylthy mynde a songe can crave, 
But therein he may finde the same : 
And in suche songes is all their game. 
Whereof ryght dyvers bookes be made, 
To nuryshe that most fylthy trade. 
[She then charges him] 

That thou thyne exercise doe brynge, 
To make a boke of songes holy, 
Godly and wyse, blamyng foly. 

1 A court of Venus Moralised was entered to Richard Field in 1568, but is 
apparendy not known otherwise. 



Accordingly Hall produced a Christian miscellany, many of the 
pieces being provided with melodies to which they could be 
sung, and on occasion offering an arrangement for four-part 
singing. Certain Psalms, songs from the Bible, a portion of 
Ecclesiasticus, pious poems for all occasions, wisdom sayings 
/ were offered — everything rendered in a variety of metres, and 
all constituting regrettable poetry to set up as a rival volume 
to the growing number of miscellanies. The most striking 
venture is the attempt to write what Chambers calls * spiritual 
parodies ' of certain popular songs, noting especially parodies 
of Wyatt's 'My lute, awake', 'My pen, take pain', and 'Blame 
not my lute V It may be worth seeing how Hall goes about it in 
the most popular of the three : 

Blame not my lute though it do sounde 

the rebuke of your wicked sinne 

but rather seke as ye are bound 

to know what case that ye are in: 

And though this songe doe sinn confute, 

and sharply wyckednes rebuke: 

blame not my lute. 

More important than a miscellany of sacred and moral verse 
to rival the secular poetry which was so rapidly increasing was 
the renewed publication, after Elizabeth was safely on the 
throne, of the metrical version of the Psalms begun by Stern- 
hold and continued by others. John Daye's title-page still bore 
the admonition to lay aside e all ungodly Songes and Ballades, 
which tend to the nourishing of vyce and corrupting of youth'. 
The work had a long and honourable history, well summarized 
by John Playford in the next century: 

The whole Book of Psalms being thus translated into English Metre, 
and having apt Tunes set to them, was used and Sung only for De- 
votion in private Families; but soon after by permission, brought 
into the Churches, being printed and bound up with the Books of 
Common-Prayer and Bibles, with allowance to be Sung before Morning 
and Evening Service, and also before and after Sermons: And for many 
Years, this part of Divine Service was Skilfully and Devoutly performed, 
with delight and Comfort by many Honest and Religious people. 2 

1 See ch. iv, n. i on p. 28. 

* 'Original of Singing Psalms in Metre' in his Psalms & Hymns in Solemn 
Mustek (London, 1671). See also his Introduction to the Skill of Music k (1674). 



No less a person than Matthew Parker, Archbishop of Canter- 
bury, was the author of another Whole Psalter published by Daye 
in 1567, an edition to which Thomas Tallis, a famous Catholic 
musician, contributed tunes. 1 Parker's translations were more 
venturesome than those of the Sternhold book, for he used not 
only the old ballad metres now sanctified as the metres of 
hymnology but also stanzas made up of lines of unequal length 
arranged in a variety of rhyming patterns. A quotation from 
'Henrie Haward Earle of Surrie in his Ecclesiastes ' appears 
rather surprisingly in the extensive prefatory material, but to 
the theme of this study, Parker's poem 'Of the vertue of 
Psalmes ' is specially pertinent. I quote two stanzas : 

Depart ye songes : lascivious, 

from lute, from harpe depart: 
Geve place to Psalmes : most vertuous, 

and solace there your harte. 

Ye songes so nice: ye sonnets all, 

of lothly lovers layes : 
Ye worke mens myndes : but bitter gall, 

by phansies pevish playes. 

William Hunnis, who had translated 'certayne Psalmes* 
published during the reign of Edward VI, turned again to 
divine poetry during the reign of Elizabeth, when he could 
describe himself as 'one of the Gentlemen of her Majesties 
honourable Chappel, and maister to the children of the same'. 
In 1583 Seven Sobs of a Sorrowfull Soule for Sinne was published, 
adequately described on the title-page as ' Comprehending those 
seven Psalmes of the Princelie Prophet DAVID, commonlie 
called Poenitentiall; framed into a forme of familiar praiers, 
and reduced into meeter \ But Hunnis was now venturing into 
broader fields, for the title-page also recorded additional poetry : 
'his Handfull of Honisuckles ; the Poore Widowes Mite; a Dia- 
log betweene Christ and a sinner; divers godlie and pithie 
ditties, with a Christian confession of and to the Trinitie\ 
Neither the routine translations of the Psalms in common 
metre nor the religious poems seem to a modern reader to 

1 Concerning the date of composition see H. L. Bennett in Julian's Dictionary, 
p. 917. 

4 49 c D p 


deserve the ten editions of the work which were offered between 
1583 and 1629. r 

Other gentlemen of the Chapel Royal were publishing divine 
poetry, set to music that has received from later generations 
more appreciative notice than has that of William Hunnis, and 
among them all William Byrd ranks supreme. Of him E. H. 
Fellowes has said that by many authorities he 'is regarded not 
only as the greatest of all Tudor musicians, but the greatest 
English composer of all time'. Since church music is outside 
the limits set for this study, Byrd's church music (regarded as 
his best) cannot be considered here, but it is necessary to men- 
tion his Psalmes, Sonets, & Songs of Sadnes and Pietie, which was 
published in 1588. Byrd urged everyone to learn to sing, his 
final reason being that ' the better the voyce is, the meeter it is 
to honour and serve God therewith : and the voyce of man is 
chiefly to be imployed to that end'. The ten Psalms which are 
set to music for five-part singing were written in common 
metre and are of more interest to the musician than to the 
historian of literature, but they represent the effort to popu- 
larize the general singing of divine songs as the madrigals were 
being sung. Among the other pieces are the story of Susanna 
written in a six-line stanza and a lullaby sung by Mary when 
Herod threatens the life of the child Jesus. In 1589 Byrd 
published another collection, Songs ofSundrie Natures ', containing 
the Penitential Psalms and Psalm 121 (all in common metre but 
with different musical settings), Susanna with new music, two 
Christmas carols, and other varied sacred works, some in prose. 2 

That Sidney's translation of the Psalms had to wait until the 
nineteenth century to be published and that Spenser's trans- 
lation of the seven Penitential Psalms was allowed to be lost, 
while inferior poets found a popular audience for their offerings, 

1 I have seen the 1597 edition. See Stopes, ch. xvi, especially pp. 209-18 
concerning the bibliographical problem in considering this work. See also 
above, ch. v, n. 2 on p. 43. 

1 For accounts of Byrd see E. H. Fellowes, William Byrd (London, 1936), 
and his preface in The English Madrigal School (London, 1920), vol. xiv. A view 
of Byrd with his Catholic associates is given in John Gerard: The Autobiography of 
an Elizabethan, trans, by Philip Caraman (London and New York, 195 1). It is 
interesting to note that Father Gerard while in prison suffered from hearing 
'lewd songs and Geneva hymns' (p. 77). 



is a sad fact. That both great writers not only translated the 
Psalms but went beyond these translations to other divine 
works is, however, evidence of the developing movement 
which reached its greatest glory in Milton. 

Sidney's comment on the Psalms in his Apology for Poetry 
presents the best introduction to his own English versions, for 
it is both scholarly and personal. He recognized them as poetry, 
as showing in their metrical form and in their rhetorical devices 
the characteristics of true poetry, as well as in their penetrating 
to that inner truth which makes them prophetic: 

Among the Romans a Poet was called Vates, which is as much 
as a Diviner, Foreseer, or Prophet, . . . And may I not presume a 
little further, to shew the reasonablenes of this worde Vates} And 
say that the holy Davids Psalmes are a divine Poem? If I doo, I shall 
not do it without the testimonie of great learned men, both auncient 
and moderne : but even the name Psalmes will speake for mee, which, 
being interpreted, is nothing but songes. Then that it is fully written 
in meeter, as all learned Hebricians agree, although the rules be not 
yet fully found. Lastly and principally, his handeling his prophecy, 
which is merely poetical. For what els is the awaking his musical 
instruments; the often and free changing of persons; his notable 
Prosopopeias, when he maketh you, as it were, see God comming in his 
Majestie; his telling of the Beastes joyfulnes, and hills leaping, but 
a heavenlie poesie, wherein almost hee sheweth himselfe a passionate 
lover of that unspeakable and everlasting beautie to be seene by 
the eyes of the minde, onely cleered by fayth? 

Speaking of the three kinds of poetry, Sidney saw the Psalms as 
one among the poetical parts of the Bible and recognized their 
peculiar fitness to express men's thoughts in moments of joy 
or sadness : 

The chiefe both in antiquitie and excellencie were they that did 
imitate the inconceivable excellencies of God. Such were David in 
his Psalmes, Salomon in his song of Songs, in his Ecclesiastes, and 
Proverbs, Moses and Debora in their Hymnes, and the writer of Job; 
which, beside other, the learned Emanuell Tremelius and Franciscus 

Junius doe entitle the poeticall part of the Scripture In this kinde, 

though in a full wrong divinitie, were Orpheus, Amphion, Homer in 
his hymnes, and many other, both Greekes and Romaines : and this 
Poesie must be used, by whosoever will follow S. James his counsell, 
in singing Psalmes when they are merry: and I know is used with 

5i 4-2 



the fruite of comfort by some, when, in sorrowful pangs of their 
death-bringing sinnes, they find the consolation of the never- 
leaving goodnesse. 1 

Sidney died in 1586, mourned as few have been mourned, 
and leaving his work unfinished. He had translated forty- 
three of his English Psalms, his sister, the Countess of Pembroke, 
completing the task he had undertaken. When the whole work 
was first published in 1823, from a manuscript transcribed by 
John Davies of Hereford, as a volume of the Early English Poets 
series, the title-page described the poems as 'translated into 
divers and sundry kindes of verse, more rare and excellent for 
the method and varietie than ever yet hath been done in English \ 
Yet only rarely has the modern historian of literature in con- 
sidering Sidney's versification recognized that in his Psalms he 
was attempting metrical experiments just as he was in his 
Arcadian poems. 2 Generally using the iambic foot, he tried out 
a great variety of rhyme schemes with varied line lengths. Thus 
he used the ter^a rima rhyme scheme with a five-foot line in 
Psalm vii and with a four-foot line in Psalm xxx, he used a 
six-foot line with a rhyme royal structure in Psalm xviii, he 
experimented with tail rhyme, he tried an extra syllable as the 
rhyming syllable, he wrote a thirteen-line stanza in hexameters 
using only one rhymed Hallett Smith has identified fourteen 
of the forty-three as fashioned in imitation of metrical patterns 
used in the Marot-Beze Psalter and others as using the rhyme 
scheme of the French original though varying the line pattern. 
The general idea of doing the translations in a variety of meters 
may also have come to Sidney from Marot, as Professor Smith 
suggests, but he did the Arcadian poems in a variety of metres, 
and Sidney was not the first in England to use variety in 
translating the Psalms. 

The dignity and beauty of the Authorized Version is a 

1 G. G. Smith, vol. 1, pp. 154-5 and 158. 

2 For the exception see Hallett Smith, 'English Metrical Psalms in the Six- 
teenth Century and their Literary Significance', Huntington Library Quarterly , 
vol. ix, pp. 248-71, and John Buxton, Sir Philip Sidney and the English Renaissance 
(London, 1954), pp. 152-5. Buxton (p. 1 14) notes that Byrd set two funeral songs 
for Sidney and one of his songs from Astrophel and Stella to music. 

3 Sidney, Complete Works, ed. A. Feuillerat (Cambridge, 1923), vol. in, 
pp. 187-246. 



haunting memory as we listen to any of the metrical translations, 
but here is Sidney's opening stanza for the familiar Twenty- 
third Psalm: 

The Lord, the Lord my shepheard is, 

And so can never I 

Tast missery. 
He rests me in greene pasture his : 

By waters still, and sweete 
Hee guides my feete. 

Sidney's interest in divine literature, as I have said, went ^ 
beyond the Psalms, for he had begun the translation of A 
Worke concerning the Trewnesse of the Christian Religion by Philippe 
de Mornay, which was turned over to Arthur Golding to 
complete, and he had made a translation of part of the great 
divine work of Saluste du Bartas. Of this last I shall write 
later in considering the influence of the French poet on English 
writers of the time. 

In 1600 Sir John Harington was writing to the Countess of 
Bedford, 'I have sent you heere the devine, and trulie devine 
translation of three of Davids psalmes, donne by that Excellent 
Countesse and in Poesie the mirrois of our Age ', and it was in 
such terms that the Countess of Pembroke and her works were 
referred to by many. 1 She not only completed the translation 

1 N. E. McClure in The Letters and Epigrams of Sir John Harington (Philadelphia, 
1930), p. 87. McClure has given in his Introduction the best available account 
of the relationship of the five John Haringtons prominent in this period. This 
Sir John and his father collected in manuscript a large number of poems by con- 
temporary authors (p. 44 and n. 1) and, like his father, Sir John tried in 1592 to 
set up a private printing press. He sent his translations of 'Selected Psalms' to 
King James in 161 2, desiring apparently to dedicate them to him. He noted the 
assistance given him in 'the resolucion of all doubtfull places' by Launcelot 
Andrewes, Bishop of Ely (Letters 61 and 62, pp. 142-4). His death in 1612 
probably accounts for his failure to see these Psalms in print, but Thomas Park 
in Nugae Antiquae (London, 1804), vol. 1, p. xxiv, says that 'His entire version of 
the Psalms' was in the collection of Francis Douce. Among the works printed 
from the assembled MSS. by him and his father in Nugae Antiquae are Surrey's 
Ecclesiastes and three of his Psalms, two of those by the Countess of Pembroke, 
and three of his own (vol. 1, pp. 339-71, 403-10). Sir John paid tribute to the 
Countess's Psalm versions in an epigram (McClure, p. 310). 

Since this book was written Ian Grimble's The Harington Family has been 
published in London and New York, giving much information about the family, 
but little about the publication of the Psalms. See pp. 75-164, especially pp. 90-1, 
119, 193, 194. 



of the Psalms, she wrote A POEM on Our Saviour's Passion, and 
most important of all she became famous as a patroness of 
religious literature. 

Sir John Harington himself during the reign of King James 
undertook to translate the Psalms and sent them to the King 
for criticism. So many were those who put Psalms into English 
metre, and whose work now exists only in manuscript or is 
known by some reference to it, that we must conclude that the 
number of the devout who sought consolation or a pathway to 
heaven by this means was very great indeed. Even royalty 
turned to the task, but King James was the only royal author to 
have his versions published, and publication did not come until 
after his death. What remain can now be regarded as chiefly of 
interest to the historian of literature and, sometimes, of interest 
to the history of prosody. Nevertheless, it is of great impor- 
tance to recognize that there was, centring about the metrical 
translation of the Psalms, a concerted movement to displace 
the new love poetry and the newly popularized pagan literature 
by a poetry founded on the Bible. The theme of all those who 
made their offerings continued to be that of Richard Rowlands's 
Odes in Imitation of the Seven Penitential Psalms, printed at Ant- 
werp in i 60 i : 

The vaine conceits of loves delight 
/ I leave to Ovids arte, 

Of warres and bloody broyles to wryte 
Is fit for Vergils parte. 

Of tragedies in doleful tales 
Let Sophocles entreat : 
And how unstable fortune failes 
Al Poets do repeat. 

But unto our eternal king 
My verse and voyce I frame 
And of his saintes I meane to sing 
In them to praise his name. 




From that which 'the learned Emanuell Tre melius and 
Franciscus Junius doe entitle the poeticall part of the 
Scripture', 1 Sidney noted particularly 'David in his 
Psalmes, Salomon in his song of Songs, in his Ecclesiastes, and 
Proverbs, Moses and Debora in their Hymnes, and the writer 
of Job ', as the ' chiefe both in antiquitie and excellencie \* Other 
English writers of the sixteenth century also claimed for this 
Biblical poetry precedence in time as well as an inherent pre- 
eminence, and they cited authority for their claims. Thus 
Thomas Lodge wrote: 

Beroaldus can witnes with me that David was a poet, and that his 
vayne was in imitating (as S. Jerom witnesseth) Horace, Flaccus, 
and Pindarus; sometimes his verse runneth in an Iambus foote, 
anone he hath recourse to a Saphic vaine, and aliquando semipede 
ingreditur. Ask Josephus, and he wil tel you that Esay, Job, and 
Salomon voutsafed poetical practices, for (if Origen and he fault not) 
theyre verse was Hexameter and pentameter. Enquire of Cassio- 
dorus, he will say that all the beginning of Poetrye proceeded from 
the Scripture. 3 

Thomas Churchyard added marginal notes of comment to his 
Musicall Consort of Heavenly Harmonie : ' David sung the Liricke 
verses to his harp and these ebrue songs consisted of divers and 
unequall numbers, sometimes in Iambicks running other while ' ; 
'Jeremiah wrote his funerall lamentations in saphycks long 
before Simonides the Greeke poet'; 'Isaias wrote sacred Odes 
& holie verses ' ; ' The song of Sydrack and his fellowes in the 
hot flame was in verses ' ; ' Moises by some is thought the first 
deviser of verse, and his sister Marie devised the exameter'. 4 
Ben Johnson in Timber made the genealogy specific : ' Poesy ... ^ 
had her original from heaven, received thence from the 

1 Isaac Baroway, 'Tremelius, Sidney and Biblical Verse', Modern Language 
Notes, vol. xl (1934), pp. 145-9. 2 G. G. Smith, vol. 1, p. 158. 

3 G. G. Smith, vol. 1, p. 71. 4 Published in 1595. 



Hebrews, and had in prime estimation among the Greeks, 
transmitted to the Latins and all nations that professed civility'. 1 
When, during the years when Edward VI was king, the 
Psalms were being put into English metres, other of these 
poetical parts of the Bible were inevitably attracting the efforts 
of poets and would-be poets, and the Song of Songs (or the 
Song of Solomon) offered a particular challenge — not only 
because of its poetic lure. Preachers as well as poets were 
contestants in the fray that was raging about this book of the 
Bible, and the poetic versions of the sixteenth century cannot 
be understood without reference to the theologians. The 
theological battle over it centred about Sebastian Castalio and 
John Calvin. When Castalio declared it 'a filthy and wanton 
book', he was, on Calvin's insistence, refused the pastorate 
which he sought, and in 1 544 was commanded to leave the city 
where he taught a small school. This was not the end of his 
difficulties, but of his further fortunes in his fight with Calvin 
over whether the church had the right to punish heretics with 
death we are not concerned here. The account given by Theo- 
dore de Beze must, however, be further noted in so far as it 
concerns this book, for Beze was not only Calvin's friend and 
successor but also the poet who had continued the work begun 
by Marot of translating the Psalms into French. Beze wrote that 
Castalio 'did turne or rather overthrowe and confounde the 
whole Bible ', and ' He did set before his translation of the Bible, 
an Epistle dedicated to the late good king Edwarde of England, 
whereby under colour of preaching Charitie, he overthroweth 
the auctoritie of the Scripture, as darke or unperfect'. 2 

1 See also Baroway, 'The Bible as Poetry in the English Renaissance', 
Jour, of English and Germanic Philology, vol. xxxn (1933), pp. 447-80, and 'The 
Hebrew Hexameter: A Study in Renaissance Sources and Interpretation', 
E.L.H. vol. n (1935), pp. 66-91. 

2 A Discourse . . . conteyning in brief e the Historie of the Life nd Death of Master 
John Calvin, trans, by I. S. (London 1564), A viii v -Bi r . In 1587 John Harmar, 
professor of Greek at Oxford, published a translation of Beze's sermons on the 
first three chapters of this controversial book, dedicating his translation to 
Leicester at whose command he had made it. Beze in this work begins by saying 
there are persons who think the book should be reserved for those mature in the 
thinking of the church as well as persons who think it should be fully accepted 
as one of the canonical books. See Willeston Walker, John Calvin (1906), 
pp. 288-91, in Heroes of the Kef or motion series for an account of the quarrel. 



The Great Bible, first published in 1539 by Whitchurch, 
gave the title of the book as ' The Ballet of Balettes of Salomon : 
called in Latin Canticum Canticorum\ This was the text on which 
William Baldwin, the first of the Song's poetic translators, 
based his Canticles or Balades of Salomon, phraslyke declared in 
Englyshe Metres published in 1549. It will be remembered that 
the Boke of Balettes, the very existence of which was not dis- 
covered until the twentieth century, had been published and 
offered a secular prototype. The very word ballad or ballette, 
used in the translation of the early Bibles, gave offence to Catho- 
lic critics, who considered it a profane word, used as if the 
translators were rendering Demosthenes rather than a holy 
work, ' as if it were a ballet of love between Salomon and his 
concubine, as Castalio wantonly translateth it'. 1 Baldwin, like 
other apologists, admits that 'No doubt but it is an hie and 
misticall matter, and more darkely hyd than other partes of 
the scripture, by means of the wanton wordes: which also 
cause many to deny it to be Gods wurde'. But he adds: 
' Whose errour to redresse is the chief cause why I have medled 
with the matter. ' 2 Using Origen and Anselm as his authorities, 
he explains that it is really a prophecy in which are figured 
'Christe the brydegrome accompanied with his frends, good 
bishops and teachers: And the catholike churche his spouse 
accompanied with damoysels, young christen soules'.s 

' Yf comparyson may be made in the holy gostes wrytinges ', 
this book contained * the principall balades of holy scripture ', 
so Origen thought, and Origen according to Erasmus was ' the 
best skylled of all the doctours in understanding the holy 
scriptures'. Furthermore, Erasmus in dedicating his para- 
phrase of Matthew to the Emperor Charles, had set a precedent 
by which Baldwin justified his presenting this work to King 
Edward, a work which contained such songs as he hoped 
* myght once drive out of office the baudy balades of lecherous 
love that commonly are indited and song of idle courtyers in 

1 Gregory Martin, A Discoverie of the manifold corruptions of the Holy Scriptures 
by the Here tikes of our daies (Rheims, 1582), and the answer by William Fulke, 
A Defence of the sincere and true translations of the holie Scriptures into the ULnglish Tong 
(London, 1583). 2 From 'To the reader'. 

3 From the dedication to King Edward VI. See ch. v, p. 42. 



princes and noblemens houses \ In the crusade for such songs 
Baldwin gives place to Sternhold in words which I have quoted 
earlier. 1 

Baldwin printed the work himself in the shop where the 
Great Bible was printed, the colophon attesting him to be 
'servaunt with Edwarde Whitchurche ', and he printed each 
of the eight chapters from the Great Bible as a preface to his 
metrical versions of the songs which make up the chapter. 
For each poem he gives the text (not from the Great Bible) and 
the * argument', which is of course the symbolic meaning as he 
understands it. All this machinery is unimportant, however, in 
comparison with the fact that Baldwin was clearly trying to 
compete with the courtiers whose 'baudy balades' he dis- 
approved of. That his purpose far exceeded his ability to per- 
form will not be denied by anyone, but the variety of his experi- 
ments is astonishing. He tortured the sense of each passage 
to make it conform to his theological interpretation; he tortured 
his sentences to make them conform to the verse form he had 
decided to achieve. He wrote in an iambic measure for the 
most part, or at least that seems to be the metre at which he 
aimed, but he arranged it in lines of three, four, five, or six 
feet in stanzas ranging from a simple ballad measure to one such 
as this which he fashions upon the text, ' I waked thee up among 
the apple trees wher thy mother conceyved thee, where thy 
mother brought thee into the worlde': 2 

Emong the apple trees, I waked thee up my spouse, 
Where as thou sleptest in sin, in sin original, 
Which Eva, by the frute she plukt fro the apple bowes, 
Brought on her whole posteritie, 

Whiche are condemned al, 
For theyr parentes iniquitie, 

And for theyr owne unryght. 

The other three stanzas continue the elaboration of the passage, 
and the other poems are no better, but the fact that Baldwin 
tried to depart from the ballad measures of Sternhold and to 
experiment with line length, rhyme schemes, and refrains, 

1 From the dedication to King Edward VI. See ch. v, p. 42. 
1 Part of ch. 8, verse 5, in the Authorized Version numbering. 



indicates that he was attempting to make a body of English 
divine song, however unfitted he was for the task. That he saw 
himself opposing the courtiers who were making love songs 
at the court he states explicitly. 

In 1 575 there was published A Misticall Devise of the Spiritual! 
and Godlye Love between Christ, the Spouse, and the Church or 
Congregation by one Jud Smith. Actually Jud Smith paraphrased 
only the fifth and sixth chapters of the book of Solomon, 
using common metre as Sternhold had used it. He adds in the 
same metre ' A Coppie of the Epistle that Jeremye sent unto 
the Jewes ' which forms the last chapter of the apocryphal book 
of Baruch, and — in long metre — the ten commandments, to- 
gether with some prose works. What is interesting in the work 
is not the poetry but the address ' To the christian Reader ' which 
is written by John Wharton 1 and gains added significance by 
putting Chaucer along with Ovid in the opposition : 

For surely (gentle Reader) if thou covit to heare anye olde babies, 
as I may terme them, or stale tales of Chauser, or to learne how 
Acteon came by his horned head? If thy mynde be fixed to any such 
metamorphocall toyes, this booke is not apt nor fit for thy purpose. 
But if thou art contrary wise bent, to heare, or to reade holsome 
documentes, as it becometh all Christians, then take this same: 
For thou shalt fynde it sweeter (as the Prophet sayeth) then the 
honye or the honye combe. [He added the usual plea:] Would to 
God that all our rebald songes were abrogated and cast quit away, 
and that we would once call to mynde this sweete saying of our 
Lord God. (O that my people would have harkened unto mee.) 
Therefore let us followe the good consail of the Apostle, that is : To 
cast awaye the workes of darknesse, and put on the Armour of lyght, 
which lyght is the true worde of the most hiest; as David in his 
Psalmes writeth. Thy worde is a Lanterne unto my feete, & a lyght 
unto my path. 

Dudley Fenner, publishing The Song of Songs 2 in 1587, ad- 
dressed 'the right worshipfull companie of the Marchant 

1 The S.T.C. lists only one work by him, Whartons Treasure \ published in 
1577, and described as 'an invective against usurers'. 

2 He says his work was half printed before another book turned this into 
English metre, but I do not know to what book he refers. He speaks also of the 
other songs of the Bible which with the Psalms and the 'Lamentations of Jeremie' 
for the most part are already ' Turned with varietie both of Frenche and Englishe 



adventurers' who had called him 'to the woorke of the Minis- 
terie' among them: 

That whereas you doe ordinarilie eare you depart from the table 
both at noone & at night, admonishe your selves by singing some 
spiritual songs, & do with great desire heare the arguments and 
doctrine of the same, brieflie opened unto you by anie Minister which 
shalbe present : this may be as a suply unto you for the often absence 
of the minister. 

The picture of the Merchant Adventurers singing their spiritual 
songs as they sit around after meals and listen to their exposition 
by any minister present needs to be viewed against the picture 
offered by Thomas Morley as the young Philomathes describes 
his initial venture into society : 

But supper being ended, and Musicke bookes, according to the 
custom being brought to the table: the mistresse of the house 
presented mee with a part, earnestly requesting mee to sing. But 
when after manie excuses, I protested unfainedly that I could not : 
everie one began to wonder. Yea, some whispered to others, de- 
maunding how I was brought up : so that upon shame of mine ig- 
norance I go nowe to seeke out mine olde frinde master Gnorimus y 
to make myselfe his scholler. 1 

The Merchant Adventurers expand the picture to let us see a 
social custom transformed into a religious service as an accom- 
paniment to meals taken together, but the contribution to English 
literature made by the offering of their minister can be passed over. 
Spenser's version of Solomon's song has not survived, and 
we must suppose that it was unknown to Meres, 3 for he chose as 
the English representative of those writers who turn the Bible 
into verse Gervaise Markham's Poem of Poems. Or, Sions Muse 
. . .divided into eight Eclogues. Markham was a relative of the 
Haringtons, father and son, to whom we are indebted for the 
preservation of Wyatt's Psalms, as I have already recorded.3 
He was a prolific writer and wrote in a great variety of literary 
forms, and I think it is significant that he dedicated this work 
to Elizabeth, the daughter of Sir Philip Sidney. Saying that, since 
he had become a prentice to the Muses, he found poesy which 

1 Thomas Morley, A P/aine and Easie Introduction to Practical Musicke (London, 
1597), p. 1. 2 G. G. Smith, vol. 11, p. 323. 

3 See p. 35, n. 3. The elder John Harington married as his second wife 
Isabella Markham. See McClure, pp. 5 and 283. See also Grimble, pp. 92-101. 



he had so much revered ' created but as a hand-maide to attend 
Divinitie, and that as Poesie gave grace to vulgar subjects, so 
Divinitie gave glorie to the best part of a Poets invention\ 
Like the others of the orthodox, he considers the poem a series 
of dialogues between Christ and the Church, pedantically 
Thaumatos and Ecclesia. That he considers that he has written a 
series of eclogues in a variety of stanza forms gives his composi- 
tion at least some grounds for differentiating it from the others. 

Michael Drayton began and ended his poetic career with 
divine poetry. When in 1 591 he published The Harmonie of the 
Church he evidently intended a more complete offering of the 
' poetical part of the Bible ' than had been presented in English 
verse. He did not translate the Psalms of David or the other 
books of Solomon, however, but did include 'The Most 
Excellent Song Which Was Salomons'. To the whole of the 
Harmonie he prefixed a dedication to Lady Jane Devereux and 
an address 'To the curteous reader' which makes the usual 
plea for these songs as offering delight to any true Christian. 
' I speak not of Mars, the god of Wars ', he wrote, ' nor of Venus , 
the goddesse of love, but of the Lord of Hostes, that made 
heaven and earth: Not of Toyes in Mount Ida, but of triumphes 
in Mount Sion: Not of Vanitie, but of Veritie: not of Tales, 
but of Truethes'. 

Like most of his translations, that of Solomon's song was 
based on the Geneva Bible, Mrs Tillotson has decided. 1 
Except for the eighth chapter which is written in septenary 
couplets, it is written in poulter's measure, and a few lines from 
a familiar passage may illustrate Drayton's poetic talent which 
rarely rose above the undistinguished but as rarely degenerated 
into doggerel: 

Who's she I doo behold, so like the morning cleare, 

Or like the Moon, when towards the ful, in pride she doth appear, 

Bright as the radiant raies, that from the Sun descend, 

Or like an Army terrible, when Ensignes they extend. 2 

1 Vol. v of The Works of Michael Drayton, ed. J. W. Hebel (Oxford, 1941), 
prepared by Kathleen Tillotson and B. H. Newdigate after the death of Professor 
Hebel, offered introductions and notes to all his poems. See pp. 1 and 2. The 
Harmonie is printed in vol. 1, pp. 1-43 (published in 193 1). 

2 Ch. 6, verse 10. 



Drayton translated the other songs of the Bible into a variety 
of metres, seven in septenary couplets, seven in pentameter 
quatrains with varying rhyme schemes, one in tetrameter quat- 
rains with lines rhyming in couplets, three in the metre of 
Venus and Adonis. 1 As he began his poetic life with divine 
/" poems, so he ended it with another set, of divine narrative 
poems, which will be considered later. 

Next among the works of Solomon translated into English 
should perhaps be considered the book of Proverbs. In 1550 
there was published Certayne chapters of the proverbs of Salomon 
drawen into metre by T. Sternholde, but the same year saw another 
edition of the same work, the indignant title-page of which 
I quote in full: Certayn chapters taken out of the Proverbes of 
Salomon, wyth other chapters of the holy Scripture, & certayne Psalmes 
of David, translated into English metre, by John Hall, Which Pro- 
verbes of late were set forth, Imprinted and untrue ly entituled, to be 
thee doynges of Mayster Thomas Sternhold, late grome of the Kynges 
Majesties robes, as by thys Copye it maye be perceaved. 

As might be expected, the author urged the Christian reader 

/ exercyse thy selfe in synging, ryming, and talking of the Proverbes 
of Salomon, and Psalmes of David, & other Chapters of the holy 
Scripture, as is contayned in this lytle boke, or the workes of other 
men more learned, whych for theyr doynges have as moche deserved 
to be commended, as he, what soever he was that made the court of 
Venus, or other bokes of lecherous Ballades, the whych have bene 
a greate occasion to provoke men to the desyre of synne, where as in 
these workes thou shalt learne to fle from evyl company, from 
dronckenes & dronkards, from covetousnes & slouthfulnes, 
from wrathe and envy, from whoredom & all the subtyle be- 
haviours of whores, from pryde, yea & finallye from al wickednes 
& sinne 

Again he attacks the Court of Venus in particular in his pious 
hope for godly girls : 

I wold to god these gygolat gerles were as apte to learne vertous 
thinges, as they be to mock & floute men, & to take them at the 
worst, or as wel learned in vertue & godlines, as they be in the court 

1 All selections are from the Old Testament and the Apocrypha. 



of Venus, & as they be in dyinge of theyr heyre yelow, & then to 
brayde & curie it with bodkins & laye it out to be sene, & to paynte 
their faces, in doyng of the which they bloot & put out the ymage 
of God. 

To the Psalmist's injunction to sing unto the Lord a new song, 
John Hall imagines 'oure Englishmen' replying: 

. . . We have songes made by wyse & learned men in the court 
of Venus, thou art gods minstrel, & makest melody wyth spiritual 
songes to hys prayse, but we wyl sing songes of love to the goddes 
of lechery 

Quoting text after text as authority for the divine command 
to sing psalms, Hall laments again that 'in our myrth it is 
manifest what our doynges are, for our songes are of the court 
of Venus, yea, and rather worse '. To the main body of his work, 
the translation of Proverbs, Hall added metrical versions of the 
sixth chapter of the Book of Wisdom, the ninth of Ecclesiasticus, 
the third of the second Epistle to the Thessalonians, and certain 
Psalms. It is significant of the lack of consideration given to 
divine poetry by modern literary historians that this work has 
only been mentioned by them because it indicated that the 
Court of Venus had been previously published. 1 

That the attempts to render wisdom literature into English 
verse should result in poetry which can only be compared with 
that by which older generations learned the multiplication 
tables, the number of days in the month, and the capitals of the 
states is not surprising. The value of rhyme as an aid to memory 
has always been recognized, of course, and it may be worth 
noting here that among the Heber collection of broadsides and 
ballads is to be found A most excellent new dittie, wherein is shewed 
the saage sayings ', and wise sentences of Salomon: wherein each estate is 
taugjot his dutie^ with singular counsell to his comfort and consolation. 
To the tune of Wigmores Galliard. 

The third of Solomon's works mentioned by Sidney was 
Ecclesiastes, and I have already noted Surrey's translation 
which, though not printed, was well enough known to be quoted 
by Archbishop Parker in his edition of the Psalms. Like 

1 See p. 28, n. 2. 




Surrey's versions of certain Psalms, it was made by him to 
echo his own life's problems. Padelford wrote that ' The chap- 
ters from Ecclesiastes lend themselves to that elegiac strain 
which has ever been so near the surface in the English tempera- 
ment, 1 and Surrey's adaptation of these chapters to the senti- 
ments uppermost in his mind is a sixteenth century expression 
of that poignant sense of the illusion of boastful heraldry and 
of pomp and glory'. The translation is very free, and the verse 
is again poulter's measure. Soon to die on the scaffold, Surrey 
could well exclaim: 

Like to the stereles boote that swerves with efery wynde, 
The slipper topp of worldely welthe by crewell prof I fynde. 

Skace hath the seade, whereof that nature foremethe man, 
Received lief, when deathe him yeldes to earth wher he began. 2 

Today all but unknown, Henry Lok was once sufficiently 
recognized to be allowed to offer his tribute of praise to James 
in a sonnet in His Majesties Poetical/ Exercises and to dedicate 
his poem to Queen Elizabeth. According to the editor of New 
Poems by James I of England, he had spent most of his life as 'an 
envoy or political intelligencer', and having been guilty of 
intrigues with Bothwell and John Colville, he was out of favour 
by the time James did become indeed king of England and was 
in considerable difficulties thereafter. 3 His mother was the 
A.L. who had been Anne Vaughan, and who had translated into 
English verse Calvin's Sermons upon the Songe that E^echias made 
after he had bene sicke and had also made some verses 'in the 
manner of a Paraphrase after the 51 Psalm of David'. 4 Such 
a mother would have found pleasure in her son's book which 
bore the comprehensive title of Ecclesiastes, Otherwise Called the 
Preacher. Containing Salomons Sermons or Commentaries (as it may 
probably be collected) upon the 4g Psalme of David his father. Com- 
pendiously abridged, and also paraphrastically dilated in English poesie, 
according to the analogie of Scripture, and consent of the most approved 

1 Padelford, p. 42. 

■ Padelford, p. 102. Translation of ch. 3, verses 1-4. 

3 Westcott, pp. xlii and xliii. 

4 A. B. Grosart, Miscellanies of the Fuller Worthies Library (printed for private 
circulation, 1871), vol. 11, p. 395. 



writer thereof. It was dedicated to Queen Elizabeth, to whom 
he addressed a prefatory sonnet, and it may be of interest that 
among the prefatory poems in the volume is one by John Lyly 
also addressed to the Queen. The high purpose of the work is 
fittingly proclaimed : 

The heavenly words of holy Davids sonne, 
Who over Israels race sometimes did raigne, 
Wherewith to vertue he his subjects wonne, 
Whilst in Jerusalem he did remaine, 
And to instruct them thus did not disdaine. 
Those words, no vaine discourse it is I write, 
Pend by a Prince, as God did them indite. 

The method by which Lok ' compendiously abridged, and 
also paraphrastically dilated in English Poesie' a text may be 
illustrated by his version of a phrase in the ninth verse of the 
twelfth chapter of the book. The phrase, printed in the margin, 
reads 'And searched forth, and prepared many parables'. This 
is what he makes of it in the double stanza in which part of the 
poem is translated . 

His heavenly Muse with wings of zeale did fly 
Above the common pitch of earthly men, 
And so inflamed were his thoughts thereby 
With holy liking of his love as then, 
That he could not containe his gratefull pen. 

In thousand songs and five his pow T ers did try, 
The prayses of his sacred soules delight, 
In whom sweet peace and love he did espy, 
Which from him, love of world did banish quight, 
Among the which that song of songs by name 
Describes her beauties, did him so inflame. 

Lok in characteristic fashion varied the metre in this work, 
using rhyme royal, the popular six-line stanza, and this hybrid 
twin. With Ecclesiastes were printed, rendered into septenary 
couplets, the Lord's Prayer and five Psalms, Psalm cxix being 
arranged in twenty-two parts. Also with a separate title-page is 
included a reprint of the 1593 volume of sonnets, Sundry 

5 65 CDP 


Christian Passions, which I propose to consider later, but it is 
perhaps interesting to note that both volumes were printed by 
Richard Field, Shakespeare's first printer. 

In 1596 there was published also the apocryphal book The 
Wisdom of Solomon put into the six-line stanza by Thomas 
Middleton. It is very awkwardly done. Indeed, Solomon fared 
rather worse at the hands of the poets than did his father 




English poets and would-be poets more often turned to 
the translation of the works of the two royal poets, David 
and Solomon, than to other books of the Bible, but there 
were occasional offerings of some interest. A very comprehen- 
sive task was that undertaken during the reign of Edward VI, 
when the ventures of Sternhold and Baldwin and others testify 
to his sympathy, for William Samuel started to put the whole 
Bible into metre. Identifying himself as ' servaunt to the Duke 
of Somerset his grace', and dedicating it to Anne, the wife of 
the Protector, he first published in 15 51 The Abridgemente of 
Goddes Statutes in Myter. It was printed by Robert Crowley for 
Robert Soughton, and it will be remembered that Crowley had 
himself produced the first metrical version of the complete 
Psalter. This early work of Samuel is apparently extant only in 
the copy at the Huntington Library and is not registered in the 
Short-Title Catalogue. The dedication indicates that it is intended 
as the beginning of a great work, the purpose of the whole 
being here recorded: 

My mynd is that I wold have my contrey people able in a smale some 
to syng the hole contents of the byble, & where as in tymes past the 
musicians or mynstrells, wer wont to syng fained myracles, saints 
lives, & Robin node, in stede thereof to sing, undoutyd truthes, 
canonycall scryptures, and Gods doynges. I have also begon the 
same order that I intend to kepe as where a boke hath thyrtye, 
fortye, or fyfthtye chapters, to devyd it into fyttes, or partes, that 
it shall not be to tedyous to the reader, synger, or hearer, to have 

the boke in practys The abrygement of Gods acts or statutes I 

do call it because it is a summe or short rehersal of things done at 
large in the Byble booke, whych may be called the kyng of al 
kinges actes. 

That Samuel was not the worst of the poets of his time may be 
seen from his opening verses. 

67 5-2 


Almyghty God dydde make the heaven, 

the Lyght the firmament: 
The sun, the mone, the stars the beasts, 

with soules to fleeyng bent. 
The earth the sea and al therein 

all thys hys word dyd make 
Wyth man made last and yet set fyrst 

his wyll on them to take. 

That he pursued his intention is evidenced by the publication 
in 1569 of An Abridgement of all the Canonical Books of the Olde 
Testament, described adequately as ' written in Sternnolds meter 
by W. Samuel Minister'. 

A similar project was undertaken by Henoch Clapham in 
A brief e of the Bible, drawne first into lELnglish Poesy, and then 
illustrated with apte Annotations, the apt annotations almost sub- 
merging the tiny trail of poetry through the pages. The 
annotations, in fact, control the format of the page, the lines of 
verse being divided so that they form a mere trickle in the 
centre of the prose. Yet the book must have had some appeal 
/ to the faithful, for originally printed in Edinburgh in 1596, it 
v was later printed in England, four editions in all being printed. 
These are, I think, the only attempts at so large, not to say 
monstrous, an undertaking. One of the more modest under- 
takings was that of Christopher Tye, Doctor of Music, master of 
the chapel boys at Ely, and like Sternhold a gentleman of the 
Chapel Royal during Edward's reign. He is said to have been 
Edward's music master. 1 In the play When You See Me, You 
Know Me, published in 1605,* he comes to life as his work is 
proffered to young Prince Edward. Since the author of the 
play was Samuel Rowley, and Rowley is thought to have been 
Tye's grandson, the passage is illuminating. Henry is king, 
and Edward is prince, the hope of the Tudor dynasty. When 
Tye enters the scene, Edward greets him as his * music lecturer', 
and as they discuss the place of music in life, Tye gives a very 

1 Henry Davey in the D.N.B. quotes Burney's judgment of Tye : * Perhaps as 
good a poet as Sternhold, and as great a musician as Europe could then boast. ' 
I have taken my facts from this article. 

2 I have used the Malone Society Reprint, ed. by F. P. Wilson (Oxford, 1952). 
The quoted lines are numbered 2083-98. 



eloquent speech in its defence. After the performance of music 
by instruments and then by voices, the dialogue continues : 

Prince. I oft have heard my Father merrily speake, 
In your hye praise, and thus his Highnesse sayth, 
England, one God, one truth, one Doctor hath 
For Musicks Art, and that is Doctor Tye 
Admir'rd for skill in Musicks harmonic 

Tye. Your Grace doth honor me with kind acceptance, 
Yet one thing more, I doe beseech your Excellence 
To daine, to Patronize this homely worke, 
Which I unto your Grace have dedicate. 

Prince. What is the Title? 

Tye. The Acts of the holy Apostles turn'd into verse, 
Which I have set in severall parts to sing, 
Worthy Acts, and worthily in you remembred 

Prince. He peruse them, and satisfie your paines, 
And have them sung within my fathers Chappell: 
I thank yee both. 

The both refers to Tye and Cranmer, and Cranmer as they 
depart hails the prince, ' The hope of England, and of learnings 

Rowley was probably telescoping historical events here as 
elsewhere in his play, for it was in 1 5 5 3 when Edward was king 
that there was published with the dedication to the king The 
Acts of the Apostles ', translated into Englyshe Metre . . . wyth notes 
to eche Chapter, to synge and also to play upon the Lute. The title-page 
added that it was 'very necessarye for studentes after theyr 
studye, to fyle theyr wyttes, and also for all Christians that 
cannot synge, to reade the good and Godlye storyes of the 
lyves of Christ hys Apostles \ Verses to the King rather naively 
acknowledge that writers have made versions of Psalms and the 
' booke of Kynges : / Because they se, your grace delyte / In 
such like Godlye thynges \ And his subjects will do as he does. 
His hope is that the king, when he takes up his lute, ' In stede 
of songs, of wanton love' will play these songs, and he has 
provided music for the first two stanzas of each of the fourteen 
chapters of his version. Tye's music is praised by historians of 
music, but Tye remained firmly committed to the text, as the 
first stanza will show. 

6 9 




In the former, treatyse to thee 

Deare frende, Theophilus : 
I have written, the veritie 

Of the Lord Christ Jesus. 

Among Tye's unpublished works is one that should be men- 
tioned because it illustrates the habit which persisted of using 
secular song for divine purposes. Three leading musicians of 
the time John Shepherd, John Taverner, and Tye all wrote 
masses on the song 'Western wind, why dost thou blow?' 
Taverner's rather than Tye's is given particular praise, but Tye 
is the only one of the three to publish a poetic work also. 

Another member of the Chapel Royal during Edward's 
reign was William Hunnis, whose early translations of certain 
Psalms I have already discussed. During the time that Mary 
was on the throne, he had been in trouble in connection with 
plots against her and had been in prison. After Elizabeth 
became queen, he came back to his place in the Royal Chapel, 
was made Master of the Children in 1566 to succeed Richard 
Edwardes, and continued to receive favours from Elizabeth 
until his death in 1597. 1 The first work published after his 
return was A Hive Full of Hunnye: Containing the Firste Booke of 
Moses, called Genesis, printed by Thomas Marshe in 1578. 
Marshe was continuing to publish the Mirror for Magistrates, 
and in 1 587 a long prefatory poem was introduced by Thomas 
Newton, who in 1 5 8 1 had been responsible for the publication 
oiSenaca his Tenne Tragedies, also printed by Marshe. Wood calls 
Newton Hunnis's crony, and in the congratulatory poem pre- 
fixed to the Hive Newton speaks of the interludes and poems 
Hunnis had written earlier ' for Youthful humours meete', and 
comments that now in the winter of his age he treats of higher 
things. Since Genesis was put into the alternating three and 
four foot lines of the common metre of psalmody, and adhered 
as closely to the text as did the Actes of the Apostles, Newton 
could well praise the author for his work in lines which to us 
convey some misgiving. 

1 See p. 43, n. 4, for references to Mrs Stopes's work. See also E. K. Cham- 
bers, Elizabethan Stage (Oxford, 1923), vol. 11, pp. 34-41, and vol. in, pp. 349-50. 
The Hive was dedicated to the Earl of Leicester. 



In curraunt meeter, roundlie coucht, and soundly taught withall 
As they which Text with Verse conferre, full soone acknowledge shal. 
Great thankes (no doubt) thou hast deserv'de of all that thyrst for 

Syth thus thou Minced hast the Foode, which Goodmen all embrace. 
The holy Ghost, from whom thou doost this Heavenly Honnie Sucke, 
Direct thy Minde, and to thy Penne alotte most happy Lucke. 

Perhaps the reason for the pedestrian verse may be found in 
Hunnis's address to the reader: 

Looke not for fyled Wordes and Termes, 

nor Phraze that Poetes chuse: 
It is forbidden in this Woorke, 

as thing not meete to use. 

At any rate, it was an explanation often offered by the divine 
poets. What this work lacked in beauty it made up in the 
paraphernalia of authority. Each chapter is prefaced by the 
argument, and the margins are used for expository comments, 
moral lessons to be derived from the text, and pedigrees of the 
sons of Noah, of Abraham, and of Jacob. 

The next work of his to be recorded in the Short-Title Cata- 
logue is Hunnies Recreations, published in 1595. The title-page 
proclaimed that it contained ' foure godlie and compendious dis- 
courses ', the first representing God telling of Adam's banish- 
ment, the others — 'Christ his Crib', 'The Lost Sheepe', and 
' The Complaint of Old Age ' — are not our immediate concern. 
But to these discourses were c newly adjoyned these two notable 
and pithie Treatises : The Creation of the first Weeke [and] The 
life and death of Joseph'. The 'Joseph' was somewhat revised, 
but for the rest Hunnis simply drew upon the Hive for his 
Biblical story. Of his translation of the seven Penitential 
Psalms and its publication with some minor poems I have 
written earlier, but I must note again that he reprinted the 
Newton poem in this, the last of his publications. 

Thomas Drant, Archdeacon of Lewes, 1 is better known be- 
cause of the reference to him in the Spenser-Harvey correspon- 
dence than because of his contributions to literature; yet be- 

1 See G. G. Smith, vol. i, pp. i-lv and 372-3, for a discussion of Drant and his 




\/ cause his Medicinable Morally published in 1 5 66, illustrates clearly 
the attitude of the Christian humanist in the movement to create 
a divine literature it is of special interest. Here he put in juxta- 
position two books of Horace's satires 'Englished according to 
the prescription of Saint Jerome, Quod malum est, muta. / Quod 
bonum est, prode. ' and ' The wailings of the Prophet Hieremiah, 
done into Englyshe verse*. To explain his making companion 
pieces of the works of the two authors he says : 

Horace was excellent good in his time, a muche zelous controller of 
sinne, but chiefly one that with sharpe satyres and cutting quippies, 
coulde wel displaie and disease a gloser. The holy Prophete Jeremie 
dyd rufully and waylingly lamente the deepe and massie enormities 
of his tymes, & earnestly prognosticate and forspeake the sorie and 
sower consequents that came after, and sauce with teares the hard 
plagues that had gone before. 

Therefore as it is mete for a man of god rather to wepe then to 
jest: and not undecent for a prophane writer to be jesting and merie 
spoken: I have brought to passe that plaintive Prophete Jeremie 
shouldewepe at synne: and the pleasant poet Horace shoulde laugh 
at synne. 

The methods to be used in translating a profane writer and 
a divine writer Drant conceives to be quite different. In para- 
phrasing Horace, he says he cut out the vanity and superfluity, 
made a general moral from his private carping, Englished the 
poetry according to the demands of our vulgar tongue rather 
than of his, removed his obscurity, sometimes bettering his 
matter, mending the similitudes, but not altering the sense or 
at least the purpose of the work. But when he makes Jeremiah 
speak English, he does not take such liberties : 

That thou mightest have this ruful parcel of scripture, pure & 
sincere, not swarved or altered : I laid it to the touchstone, the native 
tongue. I waited it with the Chaldie Targum, & the Septuaginta. 
I desired to jumpe so nigh with Hebrue, that it doth erewhile deforme 
the vayne of the Englysh : the proprieties of that language, & ours, 
being in some speeches so muche dissemblable. 

The first verse of Lamentations is thus tendered : 

How sytts the Citie desolate, 
so populous a place? 



The ladye of so many landes, 

Becumbe in wydowes case. 
The Princes of the provinces, 

her tribute nowe must paye. 

In 1568 Drant translated the Epigrams and Spiritual! Sentences 
of Gregory of Nazianzus, and he put Ecclesiastes into Latin 
verse in 1572, but in 1567 he had also published a translation 
of Horace's Art of Poetry, his epistles and satires. And he did 
not neglect his sermonizing while he occasionally turned to 
English or Latin original verse; he said so. 

Another poetic version of The Lamentations of Jeremie was 
published in 1587, the dedication by Christopher Fetherstone 
saying that he had had the verses given to him by a friend 
(unnamed), but that he himself had made the prose translation 
of the works from Latin into English together with the an- 
notations of Tremelius. Whether the unnamed friend added the 
music for his verses is not indicated, but the music seems to 
have determined the arrangement, of the poetry. Stanzas of 
eight lines of common metre are grouped by the demands of the 
musical units. The verse follows the text rather mechanically, 
but the music might be interesting. 






The most obvious way in which to create a divine poetry 
in English was to translate the 'poetical part of the 
Bible' into English verse. There were attempts to put 
other parts of the Bible into verse, as I have indicated, but they 
were few and generally feeble. I have tried, therefore, to show 
particularly how the spread of secular ballads and songs called 
forth a rival poetry translated from the works of David and 
Solomon and from the lyrics scattered through other parts of 
the Bible. Putting Bible song into currently popular English 
verse forms was not the whole of the effort, however, for 
writers were moved to the creation both of ballads based on 
Bible stories and — of supreme importance — to the creation of 
a massive store of devotional poetry. I have omitted any dis- 
cussion of ballads because the manner of recording them and 
dispersing them makes it almost impossible to cite specific 
evidence concerning the purpose for which they were composed. 
I have also omitted any discussion of the devotional poetry 
which was to form such a large part of English literature for 
the reason that it is corollary to my subject, which is to show 
how the Bible was introduced into English literature as the 
result of a determined movement in the sixteenth century. 

Bible story, as well as Bible song, was to be put into con- 
temporary form, and it was being presented in dramas to be 
played on street corners, in banqueting halls, and in public 
theatres, of which I propose to give an account in the second part 
of this book. But many earnest men were determined to show 
that the Bible also offered better stories for poetic narratives 
than were offered in translations or adaptations of Homer and 
Virgil, Boccaccio and Bandello, Ovid and Musaeus, Ariosto and 
the compilers of the chivalric romances. The list which Louis 



Zocca has compiled is staggering, and he does not tell all. 1 
Thomas Ascham was moved to exclaim: 

These be the inchantementes of Circes, brought out of Ita/ie, to 
marre mens maners in England; much by example of ill life, but 
more by preceptes of fonde bookes, of late translated out of Italian 
into English, sold in every shop in London, commended by honest 
titles the soner to corrupt honest maners, dedicated over boldlie to 
vertuous and honorable personages the easelier to begile simple and 

honest wittes I know when Gods Bible was banished the Court, 

and Morte Arthure received into the Princes chamber And yet 

ten Morte Arthures do not the tenth part so much harme as one of 
these bookes made in Italie and translated in England. 2 

Stephen Gosson wrote his 'pleasant invective against Poets, 
Players, Jesters and such like Caterpillers of a Commonwelth , 
in his Schoole of Abuse, and the attacks on the newly popular 
books of stories were to call forth the defences of poetry on 
which we today rely for much of our knowledge of the literary 
scene in Elizabethan England. 

Since the new poetry based on Bible story was written with the 
avowed purpose of offering a substitute for the pagan and 
secular poetry then current, it was written in the popular forms 
of its rival. I have thought, therefore, that I could best demon- 
strate its methods by discussing it in terms of poetic genre 
rather than by considering it chronologically. I propose, then, 
to trace the Biblical stories as they were shaped into tales and 
epics, mirrors, erotic poems or epyllia, and sonnet sequences, 
since these were poetic types that emerged in English literature 
in the sixteenth century with distinctive characteristics. 

Before I turn to these matters, however, I must record the 
acceptance of a new Muse for divine poetry, a Muse whose aid 
could be invoked in its writing and to whom its votaries could 
offer their tribute of praise. The Muse was Urania, and she was 
introduced to the world of divine poetry in a work entitled 
L,a Muse Chrestiene.^ The author was Saluste du Bartas, and 
his book, epochal in Christian poetry, contained three poems, 

1 Louis R. Zocca, 'Elizabethan 'Narrative Poetry (New Brunswick, N.J., 1950). 

2 G. G. Smith, vol. 1, pp. 2, 4. 

3 In this chapter I have used much of the material I presented in 'The Christian 
Muse', printed in the Huntington Library Bulletin, no. 8 (Cambridge, Mass., 1935). 



two of great importance: La Judit, a divine epic, and UUranie, 
a poetical plea for and a defence of divine poetry. 

These two poems and Le Triomfe de la Foi were published 
in 1 5 74 at Bordeaux, *and were republished in 1579 at Paris in 
a volume Oeuvres Poetiques containing a new address to Mar- 
guerite, Queen of Navarre, with a slightly altered account of 
the writing of La Judit in the Address to the Reader. 1 It was 
from this second edition that Thomas Hudson, a musician at 
the court of King James of Scotland, ' Englished ' The Historie of 
Judith in Forme of a Poeme, Penned in French, by the noble Robt. G. 
Saluste, Lord of Bartas, which was published in 1584 at Edin- 
burgh. Du Bartas had given an account of his reasons for 
undertaking its composition: 

Beloved Reader, it is about fourtene years past since I was com- 
manded by the late Illustrate and most vertuous Princesse Jean, Queen 
of Navarre, to reduce the Historie of Judith, in forme of a Poeme 
Epique, wherein I have not so much aimed to follow the phrase or 
text of the byble, as I have preased (without wandring from the 
veritie of the Historie) to imitate Homer in his Iliades, and Virgill in 
his Mneidos, and others who have left to us workes of such like 
matter: thereby to render my worke so much the more delectable. 
And if the effect hath not answeared to my desire, I beseech thee to 
laye the fault uppon her who proposed to me so meane a Theame or 
subject, and not on mee who could not honestly disobeye. Yet in so 
much as I am the first in Fraunce, who in a just Poeme hath treated 
in our toung of sacred things, I hope of thy favour to receive some 
excuse, seeing that things of so great weight cannot be both perfectly 
begunne and ended together. 2 

Du Bartas thus announced that it was by the command of 
Jeanne, the daughter of Marguerite of Navarre, that he under- 
took to put the Biblical story of Judith into the form of the 
classical epic, claiming, much as Milton claimed in later years, 
that in so doing he was undertaking ' Things unattempted yet 
in Prose or Rhyme ', since he was the first in France, * who in a 
just Poeme hath treated in our toung of sacred things'. 

1 I have established Hudson's use of the second edition of Judit by comparing 
the versions of the address to the readers printed in The Works of Guillaume De 
Salluste Sieur Du Bartas, 3 vols. ed. by U. T. Holmes, Jr., J. C. Lyons, and R. W. 
Linker (Chapel Hill, 1935), vol. 1, pp. 212-13 anc * 215-16. For an account of 
Du Bartas's work see pp. 10, 13-15. 

a The letters from the King to Du Bartas are printed pp. 203-4, 



The new apostle of divine poetry was introduced into English 
letters by no less a person than King James of Scotland, who 
ordered the translation, as Hudson informs us in his dedication 
to the King: 

AS your Majestie Sir, after your accustomed & verteous maner 
was sometyme discoursing at Table with such your Domestiques, 
as chaunced to bee attendant. 

It pleased your Highnesse (not onely to esteeme the pereles stile 
of the Greeke HOMER, and the Latin VIRGIL to be inimitable to 
us, whose toung is barbarous and corrupted:) But also to alledge 
partly throw delite your Majest. tooke in the Hautie stile of those 
most famous Writers, and partly to sounde the opinion of others, 
that also the loftie Phrase, the grave inditement, the facound termes 
of the French Salust (for the like resemblaunce) could not be 
followed, nor sufficiently expressed in our rude and impollished 
english language. Wherein, I more boldly then advisedly (with your 
Majest. lycence) declared my simple opinion. . . . But rashly I alledged 
that it was nothing impossible even to followe the footsteppes of 
the same great Poet SALUST, and to translate his vearse . . , 
succinctlie, and sensibly in our owne vulgar speech. Whereupon, it 
pleased your Majestie (among the rest of his workes) to assigne me, 
The Historie of Judith, as an agreable Subject to your highnesse, to 
be turned by me into English verse. 

It was, however, the other divine poem in La Muse Chrestiene 
which was responsible for the title given to the first French 
volume, for UUranie elevated the Muse of Astronomy into the 
place she held henceforth as the Muse of Christian poetry. 
More flattering than the royal command which elicited the 
English translation of Judith, was James's personal introduction 
of the new Muse into English literature by including both the 
French original and his own translation, XJranie, in The Essayes 
of a Prentice, which was published, like Hudson's Judith, in 1 5 84 
at Edinburgh by Thomas Vautrollier. 

In his address £ To the favorable Reader ', James in his often 
decried ' king's English' explained his evangelical purpose: 

Having oft revolved, and red over . . . the booke and Poems of 
the devine and Illuster Poete, Salust du Bartas, I was moved by the 
oft reading & perusing of them, with a restles and lofty desire, to 
preas to attaine to the like vertue. But sen (alas) God, by nature 
hathe refused me the like lofty and quick ingyne, and that my dull 



Muse, age, and Fortune, had refused me the lyke skill and learning, 
I was constrained to have refuge to the secound, which was, to doe 
what lay in me, to set forth his praise, sen I could not merite the lyke 
my self. Which I thought, I could not do so well, as by publishing 
some worke of his, to this yle of Brittain (swarming full of quick 
ingynes,) as well as they ar made manifest already to France. . . 
preferring foolehardiness and a good intention, to an utter dispaire 
and sleuth, I resolved unadvysedly to assay the translating in my 
language of the easiest and shortest of all his difficile, and prolixed 
Poems : to wit, the Uranie or heavenly Muse, which, albeit it be not 
well translated, yet hope I, ye will excuse me . . . sen I neither or- 
dained it, nor avowes it for a just translation: but onely set it forth, 
to the end, that, . . . some quick sprited man of this yle, borne under 
the same, or as happie a Planet, as Du Bartas was, might by the 
reading of it, bee moved to translate it well, and best, where I have 
bothe evill, and worst broyled it. 

Since Urania entered poetry not only as the Muse of Christian 
poetry but also as the promulgator of what had been growing 
up as the central doctrine of Christian poetry accepted hence- 
forth by its artist practitioners, it is necessary to outline here 
the poem of Du Bartas. I am using James's translation. First, 
Du Bartas speaks of his early poetry written to gain gold and 
honour, wanton song in honour of Cupid, and of his ambition 
to dress the old Greek scene in French. Then he tells of Urania's 
appearing to him, and he describes her nine-voiced mouth, her 
sevenfold crown, and her azure gown, the hem adorned with 
the constellations. 

Her porte was Angellike with Angels face, 
With comely shape and toung of heavenly grace. 

Announcing herself, she pleads : 

O Salust, Gods immortals honour sing: 
And bending higher Davids Lute in tone 
With courage seke you endles crowne above. 

Bewailing the base uses to which poetry has been put, she 
proclaims the theory of the divine inspiration of the poet. That 
poetry cannot be written by art or learning but can be written 
by him within whom that holy fire burns bright though he be 
without learning is proved by Homer and Ovid and David. 
Then she renews her plea to him to turn to divine poetry. 



Sen verse did then in heaven first bud and blume, 
If ye be heavenly, how dare ye presume 
A verse prophane, and mocking for to sing, 
Gainst him that leads the starrie heavens the ring? 
Will ye then so ingrately make your pen, 
A slave to sinne, and serve but fleshly men? 
Shall still your brains be busied then to fill 
With dreames, 6 dreamers, every booke and bill? 
Shall Satan still be God for your behove? 
Still will ye rive the aire with cryes of love? 
And shall there never into your works appeare 
The praise of God, resounding loud and cleare ? 

Because of the power of poetry to imprint in us good or evil 
Plato would not have poets in his commonwealth, but Urania 
argues it is their shameless rhymes that have caused poets to 
be looked down upon and their works to be forbidden. Poets 
would be revered instead of disdained if they sang of holy things 
as did David, Moses, Judith, Deborah, and Job. Satan, 'who 
can seame / An Angell of light ', stirred up his gods and priests 
to emulate the song of the blessed. 

Urania bids the poet look to the horn of plenty, the rich 
storehouse, the boundless ocean, the deep spring of heavenly 
subjects that await the singer, and she proclaims the power of 
high subjects to create high poetry, of immortal subjects to 
make immortal verse : 

From subjects base, a base discours dois spring, 
A lofty subject of it selfe doeth bring 
Grave words and weghtie, of it selfe divine, 
And makes the authors holy honour shine. 

Therefore, she urges : 

Let not your art so rare then be defylde, 
In singing Venus and her fethred chylde : 
For better it is without renowne to be, 
Than be renownde for vyle iniquitie. 

And she again begs him to consecrate his song to singing the 
miracles of Scripture, to prefer the Holy Ghost to Pegasus. 
She promises Salust fame if he will heed her counsel. Moved 
by her speech, he afterwards could only think himself blessed 



if he might but touch the crown she bore in her hand, though 
he might never wear it. 

From Hesiod to Natalis Comes, Urania had received her 
meed of praise as the Muse of Astronomy, and in the early six- 
teenth century Giovanni Pontano had given the title Urania 
to his great work in Latin hexameters on the heavens, to which 
he appended a series of Christian poems or hymns. This work 
was repeatedly published and probably gave to Du Bartas the 
title for his poem. It was in this poem of Du Bartas, however, 
that Urania entered the scene as the Muse of Christian poetry. 

UUranie not only provided a Muse for Christian poetry; it 
gave unity and direction to the whole movement in which many 
had taken part. The tenets of the movement seemed now firmly 
established : 

(i) Poetry must be reclaimed from the base uses to which it 
had been put. 

(2) Poetry must be recognized as a heavenly gift, not the 
result of study and learning. 

(3) The first poetry was divine poetry, the poetry of the 
Bible, but later writers used poetry for profane purposes. 

(4) The high subject will bring about a worthy style. 

(5) Biblical story must be substituted for pagan mythology: 
the dove of the Holy Ghost for Pegasus, Noah's flood for 
Deucalion's, etc. 

(6) Better material for poetry lies in the history of faith's 
effects than in old classical stories. 

(7) Poetry should give profit with its pleasure. 

(8) Eternal fame can come only to the poet who writes of 
eternal things. 

That these principles represent in part a Christianizing of 
classical theory is apparent, for however much its advocates 
believed in the divine fury or divine inspiration as the sine qua 
non of poetry, most of them had been exposed to considerable 

In dedicating to Queen Elizabeth The First Part of the Cata- 
logue of English printed Bookes Andrew Maunsell wrote in 1595: 

When as the Lord by miracle sent his holy spirite upon his Apostles 
at Jerusalem, he sent them withall (for the propagation of the Gospell) 



the gift of Tongs, that the strangers there gathered together, heard 
every man in his own tongue, the wonderful works of God. So 
now by ordinarie meanes for the furtherance of the same, hath hee 
given not onely his holy spirit to your sacred Majestie, and godly 
subjects, but also the gift of Tongues. Whereby it is come to passe 
(through the blessing of God, and your most godly and peaceable 
government) that whatsoever excellent knowledge of God, or 
godlynesse in anie language, we have it in some measure in our 

Certainly the divine poets accepted Du Bartas as the special 
agent through whom a new message came to them, and they 
called upon their knowledge of languages to serve in setting it 

As I have said, the King of Scotland, who was then in com- 
munication with those in England who shared his hope that 
he would be King of England, was the first on that island to 
provide Bartas's work with an English tongue. In May of 
1 587, Du Bartas himself came by way of England to Scotland, 
apparently in answer to the enthusiastic invitation of King 
James expressing his desire to see Urania's secretary. 

In spite of the presumptions of James's letter, it would seem 
that when Du Bartas arrived in Edinburgh, he did not come 
wholly as a divine messenger for, according to Sir James Melville, 
he came also as the agent of the King of Navarre. Melville 
states that Mr Peter Yong and Colonel Stuart had just returned 
from their sally into Denmark to look over a prospective bride 
for His Majesty. They reported themselves as pleased with the 
Danish princess, and James sent off another embassy: 

These Ambassadours were not well imbarked, when Monsieur 
Dubartas arrived here to visit the King's Majesty, who, he heard, 
had him in great esteem, for his rare Poesie set out in the French 
Tongue. He would not say that he had a secret Commission to 
propose the Princess of Navarre as a fit marriage for His Majesty, 
but that the King of Navarre's Secretary willed him, seeing he was 
to come this way, as on his own head, to propose the said marriage. 
Monsieur Dubartus's Qualities were so good, and his Credit so great 
with his Majesty, that it appeared if the Ambassadours had not 
already made Sail, that their Voyage should have been stayed for 
that Season. 

6 ol CDP 


Du Bartas pressed the matter of the marriage, and Melville 
and his brother were sent to view the Princess of Navarre and 
to bring home her picture. Melville gives a most amusing 
account of James's having finally taken the pictures of the rival 
princesses with him into retirement for fifteen days to seek the 
counsel of God in the matter. He emerged thinking that God 
had advised in favour of Denmark. Time had passed, and 
Du Bartas had gone home. 1 

James, nevertheless, continued to translate Du Bartas. His 
Majesties Poeticall Exercises, published in 15 91 in Edinburgh, 
had three sections in addition to its prefatory material. The 
first included James's translation of ' The Exord, or Preface of 
the Second Week of Du Bartas', 'The Translators Invocation', 
and his translation of The Furies of Du Bartas. The second 
section was, except for a solitary sonnet, given over to James's 
own poem, The Lepanto, in which he seems to have set out to 
write another Jerusalem Delivered. The third section consisted of 
a French translation by Du Bartas of The ~Lepanto and a flattering 
poem by the translator to the royal author. Each section con- 
tained an address by the author to the reader. In the first James 
praises Du Bartas; in the last Du Bartas praises James. The 
whole work constitutes a most admirable record of literary 
reciprocity. 2 

There can be little doubt in the mind of anyone who reads 
the ponderous utterances of the King that he rather fancied 
himself in the role of successor to both David and Solomon as 
a king on whom God had bestowed his special grace and 
wisdom, and as penman to the Holy Ghost. In 1593 Gabriel 
Harvey, who also spoke ponderously, contrived to flatter 
both King and poet : 

And now whiles I consider what a Trompet of Honour Homer 
hath bene to sturre up many woorthy Princes, I cannot forget the 

1 The Memoires of Sir James Melvil of Hal-Hill: . . . now published from the Original 
Manuscript, by George Scott, Gent. (London, 1683), pp. 176-7. 

2 A. F. Westcott, New Poems by James I of England (New York, 191 1), discussed 
the group of poets about the King. On Hudson see pp. xxxviii-xl. He also 
published fragments of other translations of Du Bartas made by King James, 
pp. 54-8. The first of these fragments had been previously published by R. S. Rait 
in Lusus Regius. 



woorthy Prince that is a Homer to himselfe, a Golden spurre to 
Nobility, a Scepter to Vertue, a Verdure to the Spring, a Sunne to 
the day, and hath not onely translated the two divine Poems of 
Salustius du Bartas, his heavenly Urany, and his hellish Furies, but 
hath readd a most valorous Martial Lecture unto himselfe in his 
own victorious Lepanto, a short, but heroicall, worke, in meeter, 
but royall meeter, fit for a Davids harpe — Lepanto, first the glory 
of Christendome against the Turke, and now the garland of a 
soveraine crowne. . . . The afore-named Bartas (whome elsewhere I 
have stiled the Treasurer of Humanity and the Jeweller of Divinity), 
for the highnesse of his subject and the majesty of his verse nothing 
inferiour unto Dante (whome some Italians preferre before Virgil 
or Homer), a right inspired and enravished Poet, full of chosen, 
grave, profound, venerable, and stately matter, even in the next 
Degree to the sacred and reverend stile of heavenly Divinity it selfe; 
in a manner the onely Poet whome Urany hath voutsafed to Laureate 
with her owne heavenly hand, and worthy to bee alleadged of 
Divines and Councellours, as Homer is quoted of Philosophers and 

Oratours What a judgement hath that noble youth, the harvest 

of the Spring, the sapp of Appollos tree, the diademe of the Muses, 
that leaveth the enticingest flowers of delite, to reape the fruites of 
wisdome? 1 

The youth maintained his role of royal author to the end, 
writing of education and politics and religion to be acclaimed 
as wise a king as Solomon and translating the Psalms of David 
to complete his claim as another divine poet. 2 

1 G. G. Smith, vol. u, pp. 265-6. 

1 In 'The Author to the Reader' James speaks of hoping to present c my 
APOCALYPS, and also suche nomber of the Psalmes as I have perfited', as he 
hopes for encouragement in finishing the task. See D. Harris Willson, King 
James VI and I (New York, 1956), ch. iv, 'The Harp of David', and pp. 81-4. 

83 . 6 . 2 



The political flirtations between the young Scots king 
and the Englishmen who shared at least tentatively his 
hopes for the English crown in the indeterminate future 
have often been recounted by historians, but the literary associa- 
tions of the King with such groups have not been adequately 
explored. At the political centre of an English group until his 
death was Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. The central figure 
as far as literature was concerned was his nephew, Sir Philip 
Sidney. It will be remembered that one of the tutors of King 
James was George Buchanan, a man famous for his contribu- 
tion to the new divine drama because of the Latin plays written 
while he was a schoolmaster in France, and one who continued 
to make his contribution to divine literature by translating the 
Psalms into Latin. With this English group Buchanan ex- 
changed ideas on political matters, and when Sidney went to 
the continent, he carried a letter from Buchanan to Languet, 
who was to become one of the most important influences in 
his life. James's favourite, the Master of Gray, was Sidney's 
friend, and Westcott concluded that Sidney and James ' were on 
friendly terms and that communication had passed between 
them*. James contributed to the Cambridge volume of laments 
at Sidney's death, and Sidney certainly shared the King's 
interest in Du Bartas. 1 

Sidney died in 1586, but on 23 August, 1588, there was 
entered on the Stationers' Register to William Ponsonby, after 
notice of payment for registering the Arcadia, a record of a like 

1 See James E. Phillips, 'George Buchanan and the Sidney Circle', Huntington 
Library Quarterly, vol. xn (i 948), pp. 2 3-5 5 . A. p. Westcott, New Poems (pp. xviii- 
xxi), records Buchanan's influence on James, and (pp. lxxi-lxxxi and 88) discusses 
the relation of James and Sidney. He prints the English version of the King's 
sonnet on Sidney's death, p. 29. John Buxton (pp. 50-63) gives an account of 
Buchanan's friendship with Hubert Languet and of Languet's influence on Sidney 
and (p. 5 2) notes the impression Sidney made on Henry of Navarre when they 
met in Paris in 1572. A. W. Osborn, Sir Philip Sidney en France (Paris, 1932), 
discusses Sidney and Du Bartas, pp. 35, 36, and 66. 



payment for registering 'A translation of SALUST DE 
BARTAS. Done by ye same Sir P. in the Englishe'. Of the 
fate of this work I shall write later. Here I want to call attention 
to the close relationship of Sidney's plea for divine poetry in 
his Apology for Poetry to that of UUranie of Du Bartas. In dis- 
cussing the dearth of good English lyric poetry, Sidney wrote : 

Other sorts of Poetry almost have we none, but that Lyricall kind 
of Songs and Sonnets : which, Lord, if he gave us so good mindes, 
how well it might be imployed, and with howe heavenly fruite, both 
private and publique, in singing the prayses of the immortall beauty, 
the immortall goodnes of that God who gyveth us hands to write 
and wits to conceive; of which we might well want words, but 
never matter; of which we could turne our eies to nothing, but 
we should ever have new budding occasions. 

He shows the kinship of his ideas to those of Du Bartas also as 
he replies to the reiterated objection that poetry ensnares its 
readers in evil: 

how much it abuseth mens wit, trayning it to wanton sinfulnes and 
lustfull love : for indeed that is the principall, if not the onely abuse 

I can heare alledged Grant, I say, what soever they wil have 

granted; that not onely love, but lust, but vanitie, but (if they list) 
scurrilitie, possesseth many leaves of the Poets bookes : yet thinke I, 
when this is granted, they will finde theyr sentence may with good 
manners put the last words foremost, and not say that Poetrie 
abuseth mans wit, but that mans wit abuseth Poetrie. 

Like Du Bartas Sidney answers Plato: 

Plato therefore (whose authoritie I had much rather justly conster 
then unjustly resist) meant not in general of Poets . . . but only meant 
to drive out those wrong opinions of the Deitie (whereof now, 
without further law, Christianity hat taken away all the hurtful 
beliefe), perchance (as he thought) norished by the then esteemed 
Poets. And a man need goe no further then to Plato himselfe to know 
his meaning : who, in his Dialogue called Ion, giveth high and rightly 
divine commendation to Poetrie . . . especially sith he attributeth 
unto Poesie more then my selfe doe, namely, to be a very inspiring 
of a divine force, farre above mans wit, as in the aforenamed Dia- 
logue is apparant. 1 

When Sidney turns to ask why England was not then producing 
poets and honouring them in spite of the fact that it ' certainly 
1 G. G. Smith, vol. i, pp. 201, 186-91, 192, 194. 



in wit ought to passe all other', he instanced as patrons of 
poetry elsewhere King Robert of Sicily, King Francis of France 
(the brother of Marguerite of Navarre), and King James of 
Scotland, and 'So piercing wits as George Buchanan'. In 
defending plays, he instances e The tragedies o£ Buchanan [which] 
doe justly bring forth a divine admiration'. 

The relations of Spenser with Leicester and Sidney and the 
Countess of Pembroke have so often been anatomized by so 
many that I shall not repeat the evidence which can be found 
in almost any life of Spenser, but I must bring to mind the fact 
that for a time he was of that circle which had its political 
centre in Leicester and its literary centre in Sidney. 1 When in 
1579 The Shepheardes Calender was published by 'Immerito', it 
was dedicated to 'the noble and Vertous Gentleman most 
worthy of all titles of learning and chevalrie M. Philip Sidney'. 
By 1 591, when the volume of Complaints was printed, Edmund 
Spenser was no longer 'unkent', for the first three books of 
the Faerie Queene had been published and ' Immerito ' had ven- 
tured to dedicate his work to Queen Elizabeth in his own name. 
In the volume of Complaints, Virgils Gnat was said to have been 
'Long since dedicated' to Leicester 'late deceased', and The 
Ruines of Time, dedicated to the Countess of Pembroke, was 
offered as atonement for his tardy memorializing of Sidney, 
whom he called 'the Patron of my young Muses'. Spenser 
acknowledged ' the Straight bandes of duetie ' by which he was 
tied to him. If Sir Calidore, the Knight of Courtesy in Book VI 
of the Faerie Queene, represents Sidney as very many have 
thought, the tribute to him who 'did steale mens hearts away' 
is greater than any words of dedication, but that Spenser knew 
and admired Sidney no one can doubt, not even the scholars 
who dispute what to many seem simple statements of fact. 

What the impetus was that made Spenser turn to divine 
poetry no one can say, but before the publication of his Com- 
plaints he had written a good deal of such poetry. He may have 
been led to it by his contribution of four unrhymed sonnets 
from the Book of Revelation in the translation of A Theatre 

1 See, for instance, A. C. Judson, The Life of Edmund Spenser (Baltimore, 1945), 
ch. viii and pp. 149-50. 



for Worldlings by the Flemish refugee poet Vander Noodt. At 
any rate, his printer, Ponsonby, in addressing the reader in the 
Complaints volume said that in addition to the poems there 
assembled, Spenser had witten ' sundrie others, namelie Eccle- 
siastes, and Canticum canticorum translated. . . . Besides some other 
Pamphlets looselie scattered abroad: as The dying Pellican, The 
bowers of the Lord, The sacrifice of a sinner, The seven Psalmes, &c.' 
which he hoped to publish. But these works have never yet 
been found. 1 

During the time that Spenser must have been writing this 
considerable body of divine poetry Sidney was translating the 
Psalms and Du Bartas; Gabriel Harvey, Spenser's particular 
friend, was praising King James and Du Bartas, and UUranie 
had introduced the new Muse sponsored by King James. That 
Spenser too was interested in Du Bartas is shown by Harvey's 
record of his praise : * M. Spenser conceives the like pleasure in 
the fourth day of the first Weeke of Bartas. Which he esteemes 
as the proper profession of Urania'. 2 

And Spenser, in 'L'Envoy' to the Raines of Rome, after 
praising 'Bellay, first garland of free Poesie / That France 
brought forth', adds his tribute to another French poet: 

And after thee, gins Bartas hie to rayse 
His heavenly Muse, th'Almightie to adore. 

Furthermore, it seems to me impossible to dissociate the Urania 
speaking in the The Teares of the Muses and the Urania of Du 
Bartas. Spenser's Urania bewails the love of blindness and 
ignorance which makes men dwell in darkness. Certainly she 
is the Christian Muse as she recounts the fruits of knowledge : 

Through knowledge we behold the worlds creation, 

How in his cradle first he fostred was; 

And judge of Natures cunning operation, 

How things she formed of a formlesse mas : 

By knowledge wee do learne our selves to knowe, 

And what to man, and what to God wee owe. 

1 All references are to The Works of Edmund Spenser: The Minor Poems, ed. by 
C. G. Osgood and H. B. Lotspeich (Baltimore, vol. i (1943), vol. 11, (1947)). 

2 G. C. Moore Smith, Gabriel Harvey'' s Marginalia (Stratford-upon-Avon, 191 3), 
p. 161. There are many references to Du Bartas in which Harvey links Du Bartas 
with the great ones of all time. See especially pp. 115, 137, 168. 



From hence wee mount aloft unto the skie, 

And looke into the Christall firmament : 

There we behold the heavens great Hierarchies 

The Starres pure light, the Spheres swift movement, 

The Spirites and Intelligences fayre, 

And Angels waighting on th'Almightyies chayre. 

And there with humble minde and high insight, 
Th'eternall Makers majestie wee viewe, 
His love, his truth, his glorie, and his might, 
And mercie more than mortall men can vew. 
O soveraigne Lord, O soveraigne happinesse 
To see thee, and thy mercie measurelesse. 

Such happiness have they that do embrace 

The precepts of my heavenlie discipline, 

But shame and sorrow and accursed case 

Have they, that scorne the schoole of arts divine. 

And banish me, which doo professe the skill 

To make men heavenly wise, through humbled will. 

It is bewildering to find Harold Stein insisting that Spenser 
could not have referred to Du Bartas in 'L'Envoy' to the 
Teares of the Muses as a 'heavenly' poet on the basis of his 
Urania} It is even more puzzling to find W. L. Renwick 
annotating the envoy to his Ruines of Rome by a reference to 
UUranie of Du Bartas and then commenting on the 'Urania' of 
the Teares of the Muses: 

This is typical of the mixed origins of Spenser's philosophy,. . .Here 
Spenser summarizes the content of philosophical studies, forgetting 
for a moment the Muse of Astronomy in his pleased recollections 
of the Bible, Cicero, Christian theology, natural philosophy, and 
ethics. 2 

It should be remembered also that Spenser refers to the 
Countess of Pembroke as Urania in Colin Clouts Come Home 
Again because in her mind 'All heavenly gifts and riches locked 
are ' — a reference certainly not intended to suggest the Countess 
of Pembroke as a woman wise in the ways of astronomy. 

1 Studies in Spenser's Complaints (New York, 1934), pp. 63-4. 
a Ed. Complaints (London, 1928), p. 215. 



Dedicating his Fowre Hymnes to Margaret, Countess of Cum- 
berland, and Mary, 1 Countess of Warwick, Spenser wrote: 

Having in the greener times of my youth, composed these former 
two Hymnes in the praise of Love and beautie, and finding that the 
same too pleased those of like age and disposition, which being too 
vehemently caried with that kind of affection, do rather sucke out 
poyson to their strong passion, then hony to their honest delight, 
I was moved by the one of you two most excellent Ladies, to call 
in the same. But being unable so to doe, by reason that many copies 
thereof were formerly scattered abroad, I resolved at least to amend, 
and by way of retraction to reforme them, making instead of those 
two Hymnes of earthly or naturall love and beautie, two others of 
heavenly and celestiall. 

It has frequently been noted that Spenser is at least incon- 
sistent in publishing the two early hymns on love and beauty 
with the later divine poems, and since there is no record of their 
previous publication, scholars have recently tended to regard 
the four hymns as a literary unit. 2 The dedication must then 
be looked upon as an integral part of the whole, its substance 
repeated in the second stanza of An Hymne of Heavenly Love: 

Many lewd layes (ah woe is me the more) 
In praise of that mad fit, which fooles call love, 
I have in th'heat of youth made heretofore, 
That in light wits did loose affection move. 
But all those follies now I do reprove, 
And turned have the tenor of my string, 
The heavenly prayses of true love to sing. 

The hymn proper tells the Christian story in its glory, the 
invocation to the Holy Spirit pleading for that heavenly aid 
which is necessary to him : 

Yet O most blessed Spirit, pure lampe of light, 
Eternal spring of grace and wisedome trew, 
Vouchsafe to shed into my barren spright, 
Some litde drop of thy celestial dew, 
That may my rymes with sweet infuse embrew, 
And give me words equall unto my thought, 
To tell the marveiles by thy mercie wrought. 

1 Renwick identifies the lady as Anne, rather than Mary, who was Countess 
of Warwick. Church had made the identification previously. 

* Edwin Greenlaw was, I believe, the first to advance this theory in ' Spenser's 
Influence on Paradise Lost\ Studies in Philology, vol. xvii, pp. 320-59. 



Here then in this hymn he uses the formula of UUranie. 
Repenting his 'lewd layes', he turns to heavenly themes. 
Invoking the Holy Spirit as his muse, he recites the Christian 
story. Finally, he pleads that earth may lift eyes to heaven, 
attaining, through the contemplation of Christ and his love, 
to heavenly thoughts and inspiration. 

In An Hymne of Heavenly Beautie Spenser again invokes the 
' most almightie Spright, / From whom all guifts of wit and 
knowledge flow', and he conducts the reader finally to the very 
throne of God : 

There in his bosome Sapience doth sit, 

The soveraine dearling of the Deity, 

Clad like a Queene in royall robes, most fit 

For so great powre and peerelesse majesty. 

And all with gemmes and jewels gorgeously 

Adornd, that brighter then the starres appeare, 

And make her native brightnes seem more cleare. 

And on her head a crowne of purest gold 
Is set, in signe of highest soveraignty; 
And in her hand a scepter she doth hold, 
With which she rules the house of God on hy, 
And menageth the ever-moving sky, 
And in the same these lower creatures all 
Subjected to her powre imperiall. 

The rest of the hymn describes the bliss which comes to one 
who is allowed by God to behold Heavenly Beauty or Sapience, 
and the willingness with which he puts away the false beauties 
that have heretofore fed his senses. 

When it is remembered that Heavenly Beauty is personified 
as Venus Urania in Ficino, the following comment by Professor 
Renwick on Spenser's Sapience suggests another link in the 
chain of reference : ' Spenser had to find a parallel to or sub- 
stitute for Venus capable of support by Christian authority. 
In Ficino he found Heavenly Beauty identified with Sapience, 
and he found Sapience in his Bible.' 1 In Du Bartas Spenser 
could have found a description of Urania which merged with 

1 Renwick, Daphnaida and other Poems (London, 1929), p. 212. 


that of Venus Urania and justified a Sapience who 'rules the 
house of God on hy, / And menageth the ever-moving sky\ 

Professor Fletcher thought Sapience should be identified as 
the Holy Ghost, 1 and it may be noted that after the Muse of 
astronomy was taken over as the heavenly Muse, the invoca- 
tions to her employed very often the same language as those 
addressed to the Holy Spirit. Often, indeed, both were invoked 
in a continuous passage, a typical instance occurring in Saint 
Peters Ten Teares, where the unknown author, after bidding 
' Imaginarie Muses " to be gone, seeks aid in writing his poem : 

Imaginarie Muses get you gone, 

And you of Ideas idle company : 
That place your Paradice in Cetheron, 

And call upon the Nimphes of Thessalie. 
Restraine your haughtie metaphorick lines : 
For reverent truth your glory undermines. 

The Throne of Heaven is her holy hill, 

Whence flowes the Spring of saving health : 

In steed of birdes Archangels sing her will, 
The Temple is her loue, and peace her wealth. 

O sacred sweete, and sweetest sacred substance: 

Unloose the Springs of Peters poore repentance. 

And thou O holy Ghost and sacred spirit, 

Faire milke white Doue, unto the meekest lambe : 

The minister of heaven, the Lord of merit, 
The gladdest messenger that ever came. 

Infuse thy grace so sweetly in mine eares, 

That I may truely write Saint Peters Teares. 2 

King James prayed ' To make the holie Spreit my Muse ', and 
in the next century Samuel Austin more definitely besought 
that 'Thy Spirit bee my Urania'. 3 

Meanwhile a French and Latin edition of UUranie was 
published in 1589. In 1605 Joshua Sylvester added an English 

1 J. B. Fletcher, 'A Study in Renaissance Mysticism : Spenser's Fowre Hymnes ', 
Publications of the Modern Language Association , vol. xxvi, pp. 452-75. 

2 Printed in 1597. 

3 His Majesties Poeticall Exercises (Edinburgh, 1591), fol. H z r , and Austins 
Urania or the Heavenly Muse (London, 1629), p. 7. 

9 1 


translation of Urania to the other translations of Du Bartas he 
had made, dedicating it to Mistress Jone Essex: 

URANIA (noblest of the learned NINE) 
Coming from Heav'n to call my Muse from Earth 
From Loves, loose Sonnets, & lascivious Mirth, . . . 

His translation continued to be published in editions of his 
work, and Urania became the familiar accompaniment of divine 
literature in the seventeenth century, sometimes used as a title, 
sometimes addressed as the appropriate Muse, often associated 
with the Holy Spirit in the writer's thought, and appearing in 
Paradise "Lost to confound the modern critic. 




The divine epic as well as the Muse of divine poetry 
entered English literature through the work of Du 
Bartas, but there had been attempts earlier to popularize 
the accounts of the heroes in Bible story. I have already noted 
The Life and Death of Joseph which William Hunnis extracted 
from his translation of Genesis to include in his later work. 1 
The Holie Historie of King David which was published by John 
Marbecke (or Merbecke) in 1 5 79 might likewise be considered 
under the head of ' translations ', but Marbecke has treated it as 
a narrative poem written in heptameter couplets, beginning 
with the sixteenth chapter of the First Book of Kings (the First 
Book of Samuel in the King James version) : 

When as the Lord out of his sight had Saul the king reject, 
Unto the Prophet Samuel his worde he did direct. 

He wrote it and gave it to the press, he said, because he 
6 regarded that such histories as Gods spirite hath left and com- 
mended unto us in the sacred Scriptures, might be advanced 
before, and infinitely farre above those vayne, unstable, and 
most unfruitfull devises. . .proceeding from the pen of man'. 
Furthermore, he intended ' to impayre hereby the credite as well 
of all leude lying legends of unsound saints, consecrated and 
canonized in the high court of Rome 9 . 

Marbecke was the musician chosen by Cranmer to furnish 
the music for his first prayer book. He had been sentenced in 
1 5 43 to die for his heretical beliefs and had escaped apparently 
because of his reputation as a musician. In later life he seems to 
have given up his music for religion, and he is now known 
chiefly because of his music for the first prayer book and 
because of having made the first Concordance to the English 
Bible, 2 How early he had celebrated King David in his poem 
there is no way of judging. 

1 See ch. viii. 

2 An account of Marbecke's religious works other than his David is found in 
R. M. Stevenson, Patterns of Protestant Church Music (Duke University Press, 
1953). PP- 2 4-4°- 



In addition to the isolating of portions of the Bible which 
had been turned into verse and which recounted the adventures 
of Biblical heroes, there were few poems about Biblical heroes 
written in England before the arrival of Du Bartas in translation. 

In 1 619 Michael Drayton, addressing the reader, gave an 
explanation of the word legend which he was applying to poems 
he had begun to publish in 1 593 and which is of interest in the 
study of the epic in this period : 

The word Legend, so called of the Latine Gerund, Legendum, and 
signifying, . . . things specially worthy to be read, was anciently used 
in an Ecclesiastical sense, and restrained therein to things written 
in Prose, touching the Lives of Saints. ... To particularize the Lawes 
of this Poeme, were to teach the making of a Poeme; a Worke for 
a Volume, not an Epistle. But the principall is, that being a Species 
of an Epick or Heroick Poeme, it eminently describeth the act or 
acts of some one or other eminent Person; not with too much 
labour, compasse, or extension, but roundly rather, and by way of 
Briefe, or Compendium. 1 

If we accept Drayton's explanation of what constitutes a 
heroic poem, it is possible to consider poems written about a 
hero, in whatever way they are labelled, as related to the epic. 
Such as I have found, however, are more clearly related to the 
saint's legend than to the formal epic until Du Bartas's work is 
known. The earliest of the kind I know is The History of Jacob 
and his Twelve Sons, first printed about 15 10, but still being 
reprinted in 1 570. It is really a twofold legend, of Jacob and of 
Joseph. Written in rhyme royal, it is yet an amazingly naive 
poem to find new readers as late as 1570, though perhaps 
worthy of note is its emphasis on the truth of the story as 
opposed to contrived fable, the last stanza admonishing 

Now ye that shall this Book see or read 
Doo not think that it is contrived of any fable 
For it is the very Bible indeed 
Wherin our faith is grounded ful stable. 

Another History of Joseph, begun twenty-four years before 
it was finished in 1 5 69, was written by William Forrest, chaplain 
to Queen Mary. I have mentioned him earlier as one who wrote 

1 The Works of Michael Drayton, ed. J. W. Hebel (Oxford, 1932), vol. 11, p. 382. 



translations of the Psalms, and I note his continued interest in 
divine poetry under Queen Elizabeth because I want to point 
out once more that the movement did involve Catholic writers 
throughout the century. Forrest's poem was not printed until 
the Roxburghe Club rescued it, and indeed its chief interest 
aside from its having a Catholic author lies in its reference to 
Chaucer, Lydgate, and Gower in the verses prefaced to the 
first part, and in its reference to Alexander Barclay and the Earl 
of Surrey in the dedication to the Duke of Norfolk, Surrey's 
son, in the second part. The poem was written in rhyme royal and 
the two parts dealt with Joseph's troubles and Joseph's felicity. 1 
In another Catholic poem, written like Forrest's work in two 
parts and on a subject which suggests the saint's legend, we 
find unmistakable evidence of the author's knowledge of the 
classical epic. The poem is The Life and Death of Mary Magdalene, 
and it too was not published until the Early English Text 
Society printed it in 1899.* The author, apparently a Thomas 
Robinson, was, it seems to me, a not inconsiderable poet, but 
whether he was the Thomas Robinson who was Dean of Dur- 
ham under Queen Mary, and whether he wrote the piece before 
1 5 69, as the editor thinks, I am not at all sure. The difficulty in 
determining the date comes from the fact that dedicatory lines 
in the prologue of the Harleian manuscript version were ad- 
dressed to Lord Henry Clifford, and the Lord Henry Clifford 
who was the second Earl of Cumberland died in 1 569. Yet this 
prologue in a long defence of poetry refers to ' Cydney, glory 
of his time ', and to ' Harrington among our noble Peares ' as 
one of the poets of later years. The editor seems to have been 
a bit confused, for he thought the reference to ' Cydney ' must 
be to Sir Henry Sidney, Philip's father, a man not thought of 
as contributing to poetry, and he annotated 'Harrington' by a 
summary of the life of James Harrington who was born in 1 61 1 . 

1 See ch. v. Prologues and extracts from Joseph were appended to Forrest's 
History of Grisi/d, ed. W. R. Macray (Roxburghe Club, London, 1875). The 
manuscript exists in the Bodleian Library (F. Madan and H. H. E. Craster, 
A Summary Catalogue of Western Manuscripts (Oxford, 1924), vol. vi, p. 98) and 
I have seen it reproduced on MLA Rotograph 308. Forrest's second Griselda 
was Queen Catherine, divorced wife of Henry VIIL 

2 Ed. H. Oscar Sommer. For his discussion of the authorship see his Intro- 
duction and compare the Notes on p. 71. 



Whoever was the author, The Life and Death of Mary Magdalene 
presents an interesting mixture of saint's legend, formal epic, 
and Renaissance ornament. It is written in the eight-line stanza 
of Chaucer's MonkHs Tale, the stanza called by King James ballat 
royal and prescribed by him for treating high and grave subjects, 
especially those drawn out of learned authors. The editor 
describes it as ' most probably one of the last legends of saints 
written in England', and the life of Mary is used mainly as the 
framework for allegory; yet it is clearly concerned to follow 
the traditional epic structure. The first two stanzas state the 
theme or proposition, the third and fourth offer the invocation 
to him ' that all enlightens ', the story begins in medias res with 
a description of the Palace of Pleasure in which Mary dwells, 
the loveliest of the attendants upon Aphrodite. Epic similes are 
strewn about, and epithets abound. The most striking parts of 
the poem, however, are the long descriptions of the Palace of 
Pleasure, the Cave of Melancholy, and the Palace of Wisdom, 
calling to mind Sackville and Spenser as well as the Castle of 
Perseverance, Only at the end of the poem does Bible story 
prevail over allegory, and classical story rather than scriptural 
story provides the ornament and sets the moods throughout. 

When in 1584 Thomas Hudson published his translation of 
Du Bartas's Judit 9 he introduced the divine epic into English 
literature, as I have stated before, though it was published in 
Edinburgh. Thomas Hudson was an Englishman, a musician, a 
' violar ', who had been attached to the household of King James 
from the time the King was a baby, and who rose to be Master 
of the Scottish Royal Chapel. The printer, Vautrollier, was an 
English printer then publishing in Edinburgh. King James 
had instructed Hudson to translate the poem into English. 
It was repeatedly republished in England in the early years of 
the seventeenth century. 1 

In Italy Biblical epics 2 had been written in Latin some time 

1 James Craigie's introduction to his edition of Hudson's poem, Scottish Text 
Society y 3rd ser. vol. 14, gives the fullest available account of Hudson's life with 
adequate comments on the poem. 

a R. A. Sayce, The French Biblical Epic in the Seventeenth Century (Oxford, 1955), 
pp. 49-56. All the early chapters of this book are helpful in understanding the 
initial ventures which came to fulfilment in the seventeenth-century epic. 



before Du Bartas wrote his Judit, most notably Sannazzaro's 
De partu 1/irginis (1526), Vida's Christiad (1535), and Fracas- 
totius's Joseph (1555), and it is of some importance to the English 
divine epic that Du Bartas went for his models to Homer and 
Virgil and Ariosto (though the name of Ariosto was dropped 
from later editions), rather than to these earlier Latin works, 
for it was Hudson's Judith and later the translations of the Divine 
Weeks and Works which were to influence the divine epic of 
the seventeenth century in England. 

Judith was divided into six books, each book preceded by a 
prose summary. It opened with an echo of the familiar Arma 
virumque cano : 

I sing the vertues of a valiant Dame, 

Who in defence of Jacob overcame : 

Th? Assyrian Prince, and slew that Pagan stout, 

Who had beset Bethulia walles about. 

The statement of the theme or proposition was followed by 
an 'invocation of the true God', as the marginal note points 
out, and this in turn by a dedication to James substituted for 
Du Bartas's dedication. The invocation asks that God 

With sacred furie fill my hart at length. 
And with thy Holy sprite, my sprite enspire. 

The story begins in medias res. The antecedent action is only 
gradually made known and, as James Craigie, the modern 
editor, has pointed out, the situation is not made clear until 
the fifth book. There are long speeches, descriptions of battles 
and sieges, a catalogue of places. There are long epic similes, 
epithets in abundance, exclamations and moralizing passages. 
Pagan story and pagan mythology are freely used to furnish 
literary ornament, as are Bible stories. Judith habitually occu- 
pies herself with embroidering tales of Lot's wife, of Susanna, 
of Joseph, and of Jephtha's daughter. But as she goes in to 
Holophernes, the tapestries which she can see are telling stories 
of Sardanapalus, of Cyrus, of Xopyrus. Judith's beauties are 
inventoried as lavishly as Solomon or Petrarch might prescribe, 
though with modest omissions, and the culmination of the 

7 97 cdp 


description is reached in a comparison suggesting more of 
classical than of Biblical learning : 

In short, this Judith was so passing faire, 

that if the learned Zeuxis had been thaire, 

And seene this Dame, when he with pensile drew, 

the Croton Dames, to forme the picture trew 

Of her, for whome both Grece and Asia fought; 

this onely patron chief he would have sought. 1 

Du Bartas had been apologetic for writing his Judit on 6 un si 
sterile sujet\ saying he had but complied with the command of 
a great personage in so doing. When he went forward to his 
next epic, he advanced to greatness if, as his Uranie had declared, 
a great subject makes a great poem, for he undertook to write 
an epic on the creation of the world, pubUshing in 1 578 La Sep- 
maine, ou Creation du Monde? 

It was inevitable that, with the royal patronage of King 
James, Du Bartas should become a much-translated poet, and 
his Divine Weeks and Works became a part of English literature 
as it was translated, day by day, and section by section. The 
First Week was also translated into Latin to make immortality 
certain. The first of the translators to put it into English was, 
however, Philip Sidney, the entry for whose work in the 
Stationers' Register in 1 5 88 I have earlier recorded. Whether he 
undertook the translation because of a friendship with the poet 
or because of a desire to join in the godly enterprise initiated 
by King James there is no evidence. In any case his political 
and religious and literary relationships would have made him 
the proper translator for the most Christian poet. Florio speaks 
of having seen Sidney's translation,^ and others refer to its 
existence, but so far no scholar has found the key which might 
unlock the secret of that high place, in which, according to 
Sylvester, it was kept from common light. 

In 1 5 90 Joshua Sylvester, who was to become the acknow- 

1 Bk. iv, 11. 361-7. 

2 The editions of La Sepmaine and La Seconde Sepmaine are recorded in Works y 
vol. 1, pp. 70-93. 

3 In the epistle addressed to the Countess of Rutland and Lady Penelope 
Rich prefixed to the second book of his translation of The Essayes of Montaigne 
(London, 1603). 



ledged medium for Du Bartas to speak English, began the work 
by which he is known, publishing, only a few months after Du 
Bartas had presented the poem to the King of Navarre, A Can- 
tick of the Victorie Obtained by Henry the Fourth at Ivry. In 1 592 
he published The Triumph of Faith, thus putting into English 
the third of the long poems of La Chrestiene Muse. In 1 5 94, he 
published Monodia, ostensibly an elegy upon the death of a much 
elegized and eulogized lady, Dame Helen Branch, but in addi- 
tion to her poetical biography and her meed of praise, he 
contributed to her volume the two translations from Du Bartas 
which had already been printed and also two sections from 
The Second Week, The Sacrifice of Isaac and The Ship-wracke of 
Jonas, here treated as independent narratives. 1 

In 1 5 95, J. Jackson printed for G. Seaton The First Day of the 
Worldes Creation, the translation attributed to Sylvester in the 
Short-Title Catalogue, but the translator speaks of the work as 
undertaken ' in the nonage of my studies, before I was professed ', 
it is not written in Sylvester's metre but in rhyme royal, and 
Professor William Jackson declares it is definitely not a Sylvester 
translation. Whoever he was, the author wrote modestly in 
dedicating his work to Anthony Bacon that he had hesitated 
to make known his work: 

not in respect, either of the matter which is heavenly, nor the Author 
which is excellent, desired I to silence my infantlike penn from 
proceeding heerin: but bicause this most Christian Poet, and noble 
Frenchman Lord of Bartas, might have been naturalized amongst us, 
either by a generall act of a Poeticall Parliament : or have obtained 
a kingly translator for his weeke (as he did for his Furies) : or rather 
a divine Sidney, a stately Spencer, or a sweet Daniell for an interpreter 
thereof. For so was I put in a false hope by some, that the living 
Pen of that worthie deceased knight, had amongst other his charit- 
able legacies bequeathed a rich suit, after our best English fashion, 
unto this honorable Poet: and therefore suppressed my ragged 
weeds, till I perceived their promise shrunke, & my expectation still 

1 The S.T.C. lists Epicedium: a funeral I song upon ~Lady Helen "branch published 
by T. Creede in 1594 as written by 'W. Har.'. The signature in the British 
Museum copy is W. Har., but I doubt whether that is the full name or even the 
name of the author. The Huntington Library, in offering a supplement to the 
S.T.C. Bulletin no. 4 (1933), presents two more commendatory volumes with 
no assigning of authorship. 

99 7-2 


naked. And yet if any of the fore-named Heroicall Spirits have 
undertaken the performance of that act, I would not have my seelie 
daies worke to prejudice their Weeke, nor my moat to flutter in the 
presence of their bright beames : wherefore though my rash quill 
hath tooke a further flight into this translation : yet have I pinioned 
up the rest of hir fethers, and suffered onely the first daies worke 
to passe abroad : till I may understand whether any of those sweete 
recording Swans have waded in the derivation of these streames 
or no. 

Another edition of the work was published in 1 5 96, still with 
no indication of the author. 

In 1 598 Sylvester published his version of The Second Weeke, 
or Childhood of the World dedicating the first book of the first day 
of the second week to the Earl of Essex, and it may be worth 
noting that the friendship between Essex and the King of 
Scotland had so far advanced that by 1598, according to the 
King's biographer, * the French ambassador in London noticed 
how James entrusted to Essex all that he wished negotiated in 
the English court'. 1 However, Sylvester ventured to provide 
a new translation for the sections which the King had earlier 
translated — the opening invocation and The Furies. Further, 
he inserted in italics an addition to the invocation, speaking in 
his own person: 

And gracious guide, which doost all grace infuse, 
Since it hath pleas 'd thee taske my tardy muse 
With these high theames, that through mine artles pen 
This holy Lampe may light my Countri-men : 
Ah teach my hand, tuch mine unlearned lips, 
Least, as the Earths grosse body doth eclipse 
Bright Cynthiaes beames, when it is interpos'd 
Twixt her and Phoebus: so mine ill-dispos'd 
Darke, gloomy, ignorance, obscure the rayes 
Of this divine Sunne of these learned dayes : 
O furnish me with an un-vulgar stile, 
That I by this may wean our wanton He 
From Ovids heires, and their unhallowed spell 
Heere charming sences, chaining soules in hell, 
Let this provoke our modern wits to sacre 
Their wondrous gifts to honor thee their Maker : 

1 Helen G. Stafford, James VI of Scotland and the Throne of England (N.Y. and 
London, 1940), p. 203. 



That our mysterious ELFINE Oracle, 

Deepe, morall, grave, inventions miracle: 

My deere sweet DANIEL, sharpe-conceipted, breefe, 

Civill, sententious, for pure accents chiefe: 

And our new NASO, that so passionates 

Th'heroik sighes of love sick Potentates, 

May change their subject, and advance their wings 

Up to these higher and more holy things ; 

And if (sufficient rich in selfe-invention) 

They skorne (as I) to live of strangers pension, 

Let them devise new Weekes, new works, new waies 

To celebrate the supreme Prince of prayse. 

Here is again the traditional message of Urania, the plea for the 
greatest of poets — Spenser, Daniel, and Drayton — to continue 
the work of Sidney, to dedicate their talents to Englishing this 
divine poetry of Du Bartas, or to create a new English divine 
poetry. Significantly, Sylvester opposes to this divine poetry 
that of Ovid's heirs who charm the senses and enchain the souls 
of men in hell. 

Finally, when in 1605 Sylvester gathered together his trans- 
lations in Bartas his Divine Weekes and Workes, he dedicated 
the whole to King James with an elaborate 'Corona Dedica- 
toria ', prefacing his collection, however, by his supreme tribute 
to Sidney in a sonnet addressed to the readers but arranged 
in a pyramid of print, which I quote disregarding the idio- 
syncrasies of its printing : 

England's Apelles (rather our Apollo) world's-wonder Sidney, 
that rare more-than-man, this lovely Venus first to limne beganne, 
with such a pencill as no penne dares followe : How then shold I, in 
wit & art so shalow, attempt the Task which yet none other can? 
Far be the thought that mine unlearned hand his heavenly labour 
shold so much unhallow, yet least (that holy-relique being shrin'd 
in some high-place, close lockt from common light) my country-men 
should bee debar'd the sight of these divine pure beauties of the 
minde; not daring to meddle with Apelles table; this have I muddled 
as my Muse was able. 

In 1608 Sylvester added the translations of the Third Day 
and the Fourth Day which had been represented only by frag- 
ments in the 1605 edition. Du Bartas had gone no further 
himself. Meanwhile others had begun the translation of sections 



of Du Bartas's work, but when in 162 1 the printer Lownes 
published a memorial edition of Sylvester's works, he had be- 
come, as I said before, the acknowledged medium for Du Bartas 
to speak English. Lownes, however, printed Hudson's trans- 
lation of Judit as well as that of Sylvester (Bethulians Rescue) in 
this volume. 

The long and complex bibliography of the works of Du 
Bartas in English has no place in this study, and I shall make 
no attempt to discuss in any adequate way his major work. 
The First Week has the unity prescribed by the theme, 'the 
WORLD'S renowned BIRTH', the creation of the world; and 
the invocation which opens it c imploreth the gracious assistance 
of the true God of Heaven, Earth, Aire, and Sea', as the marginal 
notes indicate. It is divided into seven parts for the recounting 
of the week's story. The Second Week was divided into the in- 
evitable seven sections for the seven days, but each Day was 
further divided into four parts. Four days (sixteen parts) 
were finished when death intervened. The Fourth Day concerns 
David and has, therefore, a certain unity, but the Second Day 
and the Third Day range over a great deal of Old Testament 
story. Moreover, Du Bartas did not let any of his vast reading 
in classical story, in natural and moral philosophy, and in 
theology go to waste in his writing. 1 He found opportunity to 
introduce references to contemporaries also. His epic similes 
were noted in the margins of Sylvester's translation, and the 
English reader would note also the elisions and the epithets 
which marked the heroic style. 

Sylvester did other translations, but I shall mention only that 
of Fracastorius's Joseph, which he called The Maiden's Blush, 
and I mention it because I have already noted it as being written 
in Italy before Du Bartas began his Biblical poetry. In venturing 
into original poetry Sylvester was not so successful in winning 
applause, and Michael Drayton conveyed the general judgment 
when he wrote about the same time that Lownes was printing 
the memorial volume: 

And Silvester who from the French more weake, 
Made Bartas of his sixe dayes labour speake 

1 U. T. Holmes, in Works, vol. 1, pp. 1 1 1-29. 


In naturall English, who, had he there stayd, 
He had done well, and never had bewraid, 
His owne invention, to have bin so poore 
Who still wrote lesse, in striving to write more. 1 

Drayton was, however, not uninfluenced by Du Bartas and 
Sylvester, as is apparent when we look at his last poems. He 
had begun his poetic career in translating the poetic part of 
the Bible, publishing The Harmonie of the Church in 1 591. He 
ended it with the publication in 1630 of The Muses Eli^ium in 
which a section was set off by a special dedication to Mary, 
Countess of Dorset, saying * To her Fame and Memory I con- 
secrate these my divine Poems \ 2 One of the divine poems now 
called Moses his Birth and Miracles had been published earlier, 
in 1604, as Moses in a Map of his Miracles. The volume had been 
dedicated to Sir Walter Aston, and Drayton's friend, Beale 
Sapperton, had addressed a sonnet to him in this volume tracing 
the poet's progress in poetry: 

From humble Sheepcoates, to Loves bow and fires : 
Thence to the armes of Kings, and grieved Peeres : 
Now to the great Jehovahs acts aspires 
(Faire Sir) your Poets pen : . . . 

Drayton himself had put his poem in the line of divine poetry 
when he addressed the reader, saying, ' Those that have accom- 
panied us in this kinde, is that Reverende Hierony: Vida his 
Christeis, conteyning the life and miracles of Christ, that hath 
beene, and is, generally received through Christendome (and 
verie worthely). Buchanan his Tragedie of Jephtha in another 
kinde, and Bartas his Judeth. I could derive thee a Catalogue of 
their like, though I cite these onely for the varieties.' He ex- 
plained that 'whatsoever we have from Historie, as from 
Josephus, Lyra, or others of lesse authoritie : we use rather as 
Jems and exteriour ornaments to beautifie our Subject, than any 
way to mix the same, with the solide bodie of that which is 
Canonicall and sacred'. 3 

It is Judith that is mentioned in this address, and it was 

1 Drayton, in his epistle to Henry Reynolds, Works, vol. in, p. 230. 

2 These poems are published in Works, vol. in, pp. 326-439. 

3 Works, vol. v, pp. 227-8. 



apparently in Judith that he found a pattern for his Moses in a 
Map of his Miracles. It follows the epic formula as set by that 
poem, announcing first the theme or proposition as he proposes 
to sing of the man who had talked with God face to face. The 
following invocation carries something of Urania's message : 

Muse I invoke the utmost of thy might, . . . 
To shew how Poesie (simplie hath her praise) 
That from full Jove takes her celestiall birth, 
And quick as fire, her glorious self can raise 
Above this base abhominable earth. 

Following the custom of French epics, the author then ad- 
dresses Du Bartas and Sylvester in a dedicatory offering of his 

And thou Translator of that faithfull Muse 

This ALLS creation that divinely song, 

From Courtly French (no travaile do'st refuse) 

To make him Master of thy Genuin tong, 

Salust to thess and Silvester thy friend, 

Comes my high Poem peaceably and chaste, 

Your hallow'd labours humbly to attend 

That wrackfull Time shall not have power to waste. 

The poem is divided into books as Judith was divided, three 
rather than the six of Du Bartas's poem. Drayton does not 
begin his story in medias res, however, but with the birth of his 
hero, and he proceeds to recount his life and death as they are 
recorded in the Bible, beginning at the second chapter of Exodus. 
The first of the three books draws much from non-Biblical 
sources, and it humanizes and romanticizes the accounts of 
Moses's mother's grief in abandoning her child, of his sister's 
adroit handling of his rescue, and of his precocious childhood 
and youth and his relation to his princess saviour. 

The second book is largely devoted to the miracles which 
Moses performed before the Egyptian king and the ten plagues 
brought upon his people when he refused to let the Israelites 
depart, and Drayton gives free rein to his imagination in des- 
cribing the horrors of the time. Twice he interrupts the narra- 
tive to invoke divine aid anew, and once to compare the London 
plague of 1603 with the plight of Egypt. 



In his last book, as Mrs Tillotson says, Drayton 'struggles 
through the rest of the Pentateuch ', interrupting his narrative 
to apply the lesson of the Spanish Armada to England: 

Now then the Lord with a victorious hand 
In his high justice scourg'd th* Iberian pride. 

There are a few epic similes in the poem and occasional striking 
epithets, but such ornaments are not outstanding. 

The two other divine poems in this group were written by 
Drayton well beyond the sixteenth century and were published 
for the first time in 1630. David and Goliah announces its 
theme, c Our sacred Muse, of Israels Singer sings', and proceeds 
logically to the invocation : 

Thou Lord of hosts be helping then to me, 
To sing of him who hath so sung of thee. 

The story observes the order of events in time rather than 
plunging into the midst of things, but it is clearly a heroic 
poem, whether it be called legend or epic. 

The third of Drayton's ' divine poems ', Noahs F/oud, is, like 
David and Goliah, not divided into books, but it approached 
closer to the epic as we conceive it in the tale of the flood which 
it unfolds. Mrs Tillotson, as I have said in the Introduction, 
decides that ' despite its noble invocation, it is not primarily a 
religious poem', and seemingly she cannot therefore recognize 
it as a divine poem. Anyone who has read thus far in this study 
will, I hope, see how it fits into the classification in which 
Drayton put these last three poems of his poetic life. It follows 
the epic pattern in introducing theme and invocation, but they 
are united in two verse paragraphs : 

My mighty Maker, O doe thou infuse 
Such life and spirit into my labouring Muse, 
That I may sing (what but from Noah thou hid'st) 
The gratest thing that ever yet thou didst 
Since the Creation; that the world may see 
The Muse is heavenly, and deriv'd from thee. 

O let thy glorious Angell which since kept 
That gorgeous Eden, where once Adam slept; 
When tempting Eve was taken from his side, 
Let him great God not onely be my guide, 



But with his fiery Faucheon still be nie, 

To keepe affliction farre from me, that I 

With a free soule thy wondrous workes may show, 

Then like that Deluge shall my numbers flow, 

Telling the state wherein the earth then stood, 

The Gyant race, the universall floud. 

The description of the earth and its inhabitants existing at the 
time of the flood does not derive wholly from the Bible, as the 
marginal notes acknowledge. And the scholarship reflected in 
the dispute Noah carries on with the atheist Cham may echo 
Du Bartas as transmuted by Sylvester. That he knew and re- 
spected the great divine poet and his translator is in any case 

Drayton's divine poems are beyond the prescribed limits of 
this account, but I have mentioned them because Drayton 
began as a divine poet, and because these poems carry over into 
English original poetry the divine heroic poetry which was 
introduced by the translation oi]udith. 

Another book, published in 1596, included a short divine 
epic, The Old Worlds Tragedie, but the whole work is interesting 
as a contribution to divine literature because it includes also a 
divine mirror, and a divine erotic epyllion which I shall con- 
sider in the following chapters. The author, Francis Sabie, was 
obviously desiring to offer poems which should set forth 
Biblical stories to compete with popular secular works. The 
Old Worlds Tragedie is the second poem in the volume. It 
follows the traditional epic formula, beginning with a statement 
of the proposition, 

I sing of horrors sad and dreadful rage, 

and advancing to the invocation, 

Vouchsafe my muse, my dolefulst muse to tell 
What made the King of heaven to be so fell : 
Sole Architect of earth and earthly landes, 
So furiously the fabricke of his handes 
To bring to ruin. 

Sabie begins his story of events which took place just 1656 years 
after the world's creation. Adam had been created as God's 



proto-plast, but after his sin, all kinds of awfulness came to the 
earth. God let Noah take just eight persons into the ark to 
make possible its re-inhabiting. The appearance of the rainbow 
to offer hope to mankind marks the close of the poem. 

None of these heroic poems could presumably offer strong 
competition to those which chronicled the Trojan war or even 
the adventures of the knights of the Round Table, but the divine 
epic was to become one of the glories of English literature, and 
these initial offerings seem to me worthy of recognition. 





he mirror, unlike the epic, was a distinctive sixteenth- 
century type, though it acknowledged its medieval 
ancestry. It came, indeed, to be one of the most popular 
and influential forms of narrative poetry — if not one of the 
most worthy. It began its sixteenth-century course with the 
publication of the Mirror for Magistrates in 1559, the attempt to 
publish it in 1555 having proved abortive. Conceived as a 
continuation of Lydgate's Fall of Princes, the English version 
of Boccaccio's work, it was planned with William Baldwin 
taking the place of Boccaccio as interlocutor to the ghosts of 
those persons in English history who might by reciting their 
complaints to him offer lessons from the past for the guidance 
of the present generation. The prose preface and the prose links 
between the recitals of misfortune offered opportunity for 
comment by the assembled group upon the appearance of the 
ghosts and upon their performances as literature. The metre of 
their pieces varied, but the lessons taught were regularly directed 
to political wisdom. One departure from the original plan is 
seen in regard to the tragedy of Richard Duke of York, whose 
ghost appeared to Baldwin in a dream vision rather than as a 
speaker to the assembled collaborators. In 1563 a new edition 
of the Mirror appeared with additional tragedies, among them 
that of the Duke of Buckingham with its own Induction, 
written by Thomas Sackville. The Induction was acclaimed as 
the best poetry of its age and was to have a profound influence 
upon Spenser and other later writers. It has, indeed, been 
deemed worthy to find a permanent place among the greater 
works of English literature collected in innumerable an- 
thologies. Sackville represented himself as walking in the 
fields just as night was closing in, and seeing how the approach 
of winter had altered the scene about him, he was moved to 
think on the changing fortunes of men. In the mood of 



melancholy thus induced, he thought of the i fall of piers ' of 
the realm and wished that someone would describe them as a 
warning to others. Even as the thought came, Sorrow ap- 
peared to him and summoned him to follow her. The journey 
on which she led him took him past the personified figures of 
those dread experiences which are the lot of mankind. Having 
witnessed all the horrors of hell, he was led to Pluto on his 
throne, and Sorrow began to call before him the princes of 
renown who had fallen from the top of Fortune's wheel. Thus 
another device for introducing the ghostly tales was introduced 
into the Mirror literature, and many variants were to follow. 

New editions of the original Mirror were published in 1 571, 
1574, 1575, and 1578. With the popularity of the work thus 
established imitations were bound to follow, and in 1574 the 
printer of the original Mirror published a new work by John 
Higgins, to which he gave the title of The First Part of the Mirror 
for Magistrates, and in which he undertook to extend the 
historical period covered in the work from the coming of 
Brute to the coming of Christ. Following the example set by 
Sackville's Induction, he introduced the ghosts of the fallen 
princes by a poetic Induction but represented Somnus as having 
called Morpheus to be his guide. Having led him through 
darkness to a great hall where he could perceive at its far end 
'a darkish He', the guide summoned the Britons to tell him 
their story, but the lessons to which their stories pointed were 
no longer political. This work too became sufficiently popular 
to merit new editions in 1575 and 1578. In 1587 the 'first' 
and 'last' parts were printed together in a greatly enlarged 
edition. Meanwhile, in 1578, Thomas Blenerhasset had intro- 
duced a ' second part ' to cover the period ' From the Conquest of 
Caesar, unto the commyng of Duke William the Conquerour'. 
Blenerhasset returned to the use of a prose induction and prose 
links but had his princes summoned by Inquisition to Memory. 
His work received no new edition, though some of his pieces 
were included in the 16 10 work compiled by Richard Niccols 
and called A Mirror for Magistrates. The Mirror rearranged, 
enlarged, and largely rewritten by Niccols still bore testimony 
to the continued popularity of the type of poetical tragedy 



which it set forth (though the original authors would scarcely 
have found it recognizable), for it was republished in 1 619 and 

The appeal of the Mirror formula for poetic tragedy and the 
wide influence of Sackville's Induction can be seen in the 
appearance of a popular ballad based on Bible story which was 
registered in the Stationers' Register in 1564-5 as A Pleasant 
Ballad of the Just Man Jobe. 1 The unknown author takes upon 
himself Sackville's mood, briefly, as the ballad form demands : 
Walking alone not long agone, 
I heard one weale and weep. 
'Alas', he said, 'am now laid 

in sorrowes strong and deepe'. 
To heare him cry, I did apply, 

and privilie aboade; 
There did I find, in secret mind, 
the just and patient Jobe. 

In succeeding stanzas Jobe makes his complaint in specific terms : 

My kinsfolke walke, and by me talke 

much wonderinge at my faule : 
They count my state unfortunate, 

and thus forsake me all. 
My children five that were alive, 

they be all cleane distroy'd; 
The like plague fell on my cattell, 

and all that I injoy'd. 

In the eighth and final stanza the author tells of staying on to 
hear of Jobe's final felicity, but of this part of Jobe's story he 
gives no account. 

The year in which Higgins was extending the range of the 
Mirror by adding a 'first part' saw another work published 
which adopted the Mirror plan but used an independent title, 
The Kewarde of Wickednesse. The work has incidental interest in 
the fact that its author, Richard Robinson, 2 dedicated it to 
Gilbert Talbot, a son of the Earl of Shrewsbury, and wrote it 

1 No. 33 in Hyder Rollins, ed. Old English Ballads 1553-1625 (Cambridge, 

2 An interesting account of Robinson is found in The Old English Version of 
the Gesta Komanorum, ed. Sir Frederic Madden for the Roxburghe Club (London, 
1838), pp. xviii-xix. 



during the times when he was serving his watch over 'the 
Scottishe Queene ' while she was entrusted to the guardianship 
of the Earl. During such times, he explains, ' I collected this 
togeather, faining that in my sleepe MORPHEUS tooke me to 
PLUTOS kingdome in a Dreame'. Like Sackville and Higgins 
he uses a poetic induction to set the melancholy mood and to 
recount the journey on which he was led. 'Where Alecto had 
charge to rule and dispose' he sees in 'that stinking Stygian 
pitte ' figures of the doomed, and in the decidedly mixed com- 
pany of such characters as Helen of Troy, Pope Alexander the 
Sixth, Tarquin, Medea, and Heliogabalus, appear 'The two 
Judges for slaundering of Susanna : and bearing false witnesse 
against hir\ With Spenserian scorn he pictures slander: 

Before their faces with trumpet hoarse and dimme, 
To powting mouth a monster fell doth set, 
Whose voyce increaseth care that be the hearing in, 

With foming jawe, his teeth beginnes to whet. 

His glozing eyes with sparkes of fire fret. 

We see him as the servant of Pluto letting the punishment fit 
the crime: 

(Quoth he) sith slaunder is committed to my charge, 

And it pleaseth 'Pluto my service to accept, 

Within this pitte mine office wide and large, 

His lawes and statutes streight shall be full truely kept. 

And therewithall aloft anon he lept, 

From the gibbet cuts their tongues whereby they hange, 
And like a madde man in a rage into a furnasse flange. 

The heinousness of slander is expounded, 

But chiefly who be these (quod Morpheus) would I know 
That thus above the rest, so cruelly be used? 

The two defamers of Susanna are thereupon presented by their 
keeper to make their own report. 

The judges tell their often told tale of the virtuous Susanna, 
of their attempted rape, of their bearing false witness against 
her, and of the 'infant' Daniel's detecting their lies and securing 
their punishment. (Daniel's device for revealing their accusa- 
tions as false is, however, not recited by the wicked judges.) 
'The Auchtor to the two Judges' elucidates in couplets the 



moral that is to be drawn from their infamous conduct and 
their proper punishment. 

In 1576 Robinson contributed another work to the divine 
literature of the period, a work having the rather misleading 
title Certain Selected Histories for Christian Recreation with their 
severall Morali^ations, for it is a collection of Christian songs sung 
to popular tunes intended to be sung at Christmas 'or any- 
other time', with varying emphasis on the narrative content. 

In 1579 there was, however, published a Mirror that was 
announced as a Biblical Mirror. The author was Anthony 
Munday (or Mundy), 1 who after serving a brief period of his 
apprenticeship to the printer John Allde, had made a journey 
to Italy, apparently financed by Catholic gold and supported 
by Catholic hospitality on the continent. On his return he was 
enabled to find a patron in the Earl of Oxford, perhaps acting 
in the Earl's company of players. To that Italianate young lord 
he dedicated The Mirrour of Mutabilitie, or Principall Part of the 
Mirrour for Magistrates, which the title-page stated had been 
' Selected out of the Sacred Scriptures \ Among the commen- 
datory verses prefixed to the work was a sonnet by 'E.K.', 
identified as Ed. Knight, which has tantalized Spenser scholars 
who remember the 'E.K.' of the Shepheardes Calendar published 
in the same year. Another prefatory poem by 'T.N.' it is 
tempting to ascribe to Thomas Newton, who in 1 5 8 1 published 
the English translations of Seneca His Tenne Tragedies, and who 
wrote a long poem to introduce the 1587 edition of the en- 
larged Mirror for Magistrates. At least the lines setting forth 
the common claim for the superiority of divine literature do 
not do that writer an injustice : 

The woork it self no fables are but woven from holy Writ. 
Whereto he hath in Tragick wise some prety Stories knit. 

Munday arranged his Mirrour in two parts. The first part 
contained seven tragedies concerned with the seven deadly sins. 
It is interesting to note that Munday found his authority for 
the seven deadly sins in a classical author rather than in the 
teaching of the church. 

1 The fullest account of Munday 's life and works is in Celeste Turner [Wright] , 
Anthony Mundy: An Elizabethan Man of Letters (Berkeley, Cal., 1928). 



Marcus, Tullius, Cicero, that flourishing floure of all Eloquence, 
hath in divers and sundry places prescribed the direct rule of a 
verteous life, declaring many excellent exhortations to avoyd the vices 
which are incident to the weakned minde. As the Pride of life 

Whatever the source of his authority for the seven deadly sins, 
his examples are ' of divers personages forepassed, as the Scrip- 
tures by credible authoritie maketh deliberate mention'. Dis- 
carding all the usual machinery by which the ghosts are sum- 
moned for their appearance before him, Munday simply intro- 
duces each by a prose passage that gives opportunity for a 
description, such as that of Judas, who appeared ' with a currish 
countenance, his paunch torne out and round about beset with 
fearfull flames of fire\ First to utter his complaint was Nabu- 
chodonozor, punished for his 'inordinate pride'; then Herod 
representing envy, Pharao wrath, David lechery, Dives glut- 
tony, Judas avarice, and Jonas sloth. The complaints are written 
in various metres, and each is introduced by a poetic acrostic 
on the sin represented. 

The second part of this 'principal part' of the Mirrour for 
Magistrates contains eleven histories, all written in the same 
stanza, the pentameter lines rhyming ababcc. Absalon here 
represents beauty which leads to vanity and vain aspiring, 
Sampson magnificence, Salomon sapience, Achab wickedness, 
though the other characters are used to demonstrate the fruits 
of more conventionally identified sins. 

Munday's Christian zeal was to be further demonstrated in 
such works as his Banquet of Dayntie Conceiptes and his Godly 
Exercise for Christian Families, and his loyalty to his queen and 
his patrons was evidenced in his betrayal of the Catholics who 
had furthered his continental journey and in his attacks on the 
martyred Campion. Of his plays and his contribution to the 
attack on tl. e stage made after the opening of the public theatres 
in 1576 I shall write later. 

In the last decade of the sixteenth century ghosts appeared 
singly to aspiring writers to bemoan their sins and their melan- 
choly fates. Whether a new Mirror for Magistrates of composite 
authorship was hoped for or projected I do not know, but the 
publication of Samuel Daniel's Complaint of Rosamond in 1592 

8 113 CDP 


seems to have popularized anew these ghostly repinings. In 
1593 Thomas Churchyard was reaffirming his authorship of 
his most popular work by again republishing the tragedy of 
Jane Shore which had first appeared in the 1563 Mirror ', An- 
thony Chute published his Beawtie Dishonoured in which the 
same lady rehearsed her misfortunes, and Michael Drayton 
entered on the Stationers' Register his Piers Gaveston, the 
first and best known of the many ' legends ' which he was to 
compose. The flow of such tales — variously termed tragedies, 
complaints, and legends — continued for many years. Munday 
had already demonstrated that the Bible offered a storehouse 
of sinners who might be summoned to tell their melancholy 

In 1596 Francis Sabie contributed to divine literature three 
poems of different types in a single volume : Adams Complaint, 
The Old Worldes Tragedie (of which I have already written), and 
David and Beersheba. The author's purpose to mark it as divine 
literature was indicated by the mottoes on the title-page, 'A Jove 
Musa' and 'Heb. DDIM. HEB. DDIEV.' as well as by the 
dedication to Richard, Bishop of Peterborough. In the first 
poem the first of mankind's sinners came to rehearse his fall. 
Without any of the usual literary machinery to introduce him 
Adam appears : 

New formed Adam of the reddish earth, 
Exilde from 'Eden, Paradice of pleasure : 
By Gods decree cast down to woes from mirth, 
From lasting joyes to sorrowes out of measure: 
Fetch'd many a sigh, comparing his estate 
With happie blisse, which he forewent of late. 

Interrupted only by the author's invocation to the 'great 
Jehovah, heavens great Architect' to direct his fainting Muse 
in this sad work, the description continues : 

With pensive heart he trac'd the earth new founded, 

Wringing his hands in lamentable wise: 

Earth never with ground-cleaving ploughshare wounded, 

Now to the starry globe he cast his eyes, 
And now to Eden where he erst remained, 
From which with fiery sword he was detained. 



Sadly Adam speaks of God's mercies, of Evah's plucking the 
forbidden fruit, and of her tempting him. True to his role as 
the father of mankind, he calls .Evah 'Sin-causing woman, 
bringer of mans woe ', and prophesies : 

Henceforth therefore will womens words & beautie 
Seducers be of mankind from their dutie. 

The poem is written in the Mirror tradition to present the fall, 
not of a temporary ruler but of the father of mankind, whose fall 
was of tragic importance to succeeding generations. 

One of the several works of divine literature written by 
Nicholas Breton was A Divine Poeme divided into two Partes: The 
Ravisht Soule, and the Blessed Weeper, published in 1601. There 
are really two poems, and the second one is clearly written in 
the Mirror tradition. The Blessed Weeper introduces Mary Mag- 
dalen in a kind of dream vision : 

My thoughts amaz'd, I know not how, of late, 

Halfe in a slumber, and more halfe a sleepe, 

My troubled senses, at a strange debate, 

What kind of care should most my spirit keepe, 

Me thought, I sawe a silly woman weepe, 

And with her weeping, as it seem'd, so pleas'd, 
As if her heart had with her teares been eas'd. 

Two angels and then Jesus himself had appeared to comfort her : 

But ere they came, how she in bitter teares 
BewaiTd the losse, or lacke of her deare love : 
As to her words my vision witnesse beares, 
And my remembrance, may for truth approove, 
The whole discourse, her passions seem'd to move : 
In hearts deepe griefe, & soules high joy conceived, 
Was as I write, were not my thoughts deceived. 

She speaks of her sinful life, of Christ's gentle 'Much is forgiven 
her, for she loved much', of her bathing his feet with her tears, 
of his expelling the devils that possessed her, of his death and 
her grief as she saw the empty tomb. She concludes with the 
account of the appearance of the angels and of jesus ^n the 
likeness of a gardener. Her lyrical outcries of repentance and 

115 8-2 


of grief accompany her tears and interrupt the narrative at 
intervals. The story is ended: 

And with that word, she vanisht so away, 
As if that no such woman there had beene. 

But the author cannot suppress his wish that all women might 
be such weepers. 

These two poems are clearly intended as Mirrors in the 
tradition set by the Mirror for Magistrates, but there are other 
poems which bear the impress of this kind of narrative writing. 
In such poems the characters rehearse their own complaints 
somewhat as do the speakers in Browning's dramatic mono- 
logues rather than as ghosts invoked from the beyond, though 
they, of course, do not address a particular audience. The best 
known of such poems is probably Saint Peters Complaint by 
Robert Southwell, which * with other poems ' appeared in three 
editions in 1595, two printed by Wolfe and one by Roberts. 1 
Three editions supposedly printed in London in the very year 
in which Southwell suffered martyrdom is a matter for wonder, 
but with the twelve other editions printed before 1620 they 
afford ample evidence of the appeal of the poetry. Perhaps 
because Southwell's name always brings to mind one of the 
most memorable of Elizabethan poems, his Burning Babe, or 
because his religious poems are haloed in our memory by his 
martyrdom, we feel in his writing the depth of sincerity that 
must move us. Though Saint Peters Complaint will scarcely be 

1 Mario Praz in 'Robert Southwell's "Saint Peter's Complaint" and its Italian 
Source', Mod. Lang. Rev. (1924), vol. xix, pp. 273-90, traces Southwell's in- 
debtedness to Luigi Tanzillo's Le Lacrime di San Pietro. Professor Praz concluded 
that Southwell's poem was probably written before he went to prison on 20 June 
1592. The first edition would seem to be that printed by Wolfe. It ends on 
p. 56. The last poem is 'Loves Servile Lot'. The second edition would seem to be 
that printed by I. R[oberts]. for G. C[awood]., for the address to the reader 
speaks of the poem's having already been printed, but there are additional stanzas, 
and anyone who has not already bought the book ought not to be deprived of 
the poem of Saint Peter. The third edition, by Wolfe, has, like the first, marginal 
Biblical references and includes, as it does, the address to the 'Cosen'. For the 
last four stanzas of 'Loves Servile Lot' in the earlier edition, it substitutes seven 
new stanzas concerned with the disillusionment of love. Five new short poems 
on love are added. These changes correspond to those of the Roberts edition. 
See Louis L. Martz, The Poetry of Meditation (New Haven, 1954), Yale Studies in 
English, cxxv, pp. 12-13 (especially n. 19), 102-5, l8 4> 35SH>o. I have based my 
account on the Huntington Library copies. 



ranked with The Burning Babe as poetry, it must have probed 
deep into the hearts of Englishmen who with the changes of 
religion in the reigns of Henry VIII and his children, whether 
Catholic or Protestant, had been called upon to deny the religion 
by which they had lived. The fact that it also contained passages 
reminiscent of his own suffering and of that of many others 
probably gave it added significance. 

That Southwell was concerned that the great poetry of his 
time should not be devoted to the trivial affairs of men is made 
clear in a letter from ' the Author to his loving Cosen ' which was 
printed by Wolfe with Saint Peters Complaint: 

But the Divell as hee affecteth Deitie, and seeketh to have all the 
complements of Divine honor applied to his service, so hath he 
among the rest possessed also most Poets with his idle fansies. 
For in lieu of solemne and devout matter, to which in duety they owe 
their abilities, they now busy themselves in expressing such passions, 
as onely serve for testimonies to how unworthy affections they have 
wedded their wils. And because the best course to let them see the 
errour of their workes, is to weave a new webbe in their owne 
loome; I have heere layd a few course threds together, to invite 
some skillfuller wits to go forward in the same, or to begin some 
finer peece, wherein it may be seene, how well verse and vertue sute 

His intention 'to weave a new webbe in their owne loome' 
was that of the divine poets in general, to use the same patterns 
for their poems that were used by the secular poets. It was to 
this task that Southwell devoted his poetic gift, for 

Christes Thorne is sharpe, no head his Garland weares : 

Still finest wits are stilling Venus Rose. 

In Paynim toyes the sweetest vaines are spent : 

To Christian workes, few have their tallents lent. 1 

Saint Peters Complaint presents Peter tortured in spirit as he 
looks back at his weakness and his failure to keep the faith. 
Three times Christ had found him with John and James asleep 
when he had bid them to watch, watch while he was praying 
his anguished prayer at Gethsemane. Three times he had denied 
his Lord before the cock crowed on that fateful dawn, fearful 

1 From 'The Author to the Reader'. 


to confess himself a follower of his master, whom Judas had 
betrayed. But he remembers the blessed forgiveness of his 
Lord mirrored in the 'sacred eyes' even as he sees himself the 
most distressful of sinners. Many of the hundred and thirty- 
two stanzas are lyrical expressions of emotion, but Peter views 
himself in the tradition of the fall of princes : 

Can vertue, wisedome, strength by woemen spild 
In Davids, Salomons, and Sampsons fals, 
With semblance of excuse by errour guild, 
Or lend a marble glose to muddy walles? 
O no their fault had show of £ome pretense. 
No vayle can hide the shame of my offence. 

Continuing to review the famous sinners of the Jewish past, 
he finds himself the basest among them, and grief and sorrow 
and troubled sleep are his punishment. Southwell here intro- 
duces for Peter an apostrophe to sleep, which is more reminis- 
cent of Sackville's Induction than of Biblical lore : 

Sleepe, deathes allye : oblivion of teares : 

Silence of passions : balme of angry sore : 

Suspence of loves : securitie of feares : 

Wrathes lenitive: hartes ease: stormes calmest shore: 

Senses and soules reprivall from all cumbers : 

Benumming sence of ill, with quiet slumbers. 

The poem closes with Peter's final plea to 'let grace forgive, 
let love forget my fall', a plea that all his debts for error and 
sin might be cancelled. 

Mary Magdalens Complaint at Christs Death, which follows 
later in Southwell's volume is a lyrical lament of seven stanzas 
with none of the narrative content of the usual complaint and is 
not related except in its title to the progeny of the Mirror for 
Magistrates. 1 

Samuel Rowlands was another who in this period contributed 
seven! works to divine literature, condemning the employment 
of poetry for 'the fooleries of Love', but rejoicing that 'yet 
hath it a native divine off-spring and issue ', which gains ' a quiet 

1 Mary Magdalens Blush likewise has little narrative content. Most of the ad- 
ditional poems are devoted to moralizing. Mary Magdalens Funerall Tears, 
previously printed in several editions, included in the 1616 edition of Saint Peters 
Complaint, is a prose work. 



applause'. In 1 598 a volume of his divine poems was published 
which bore on its title-page indication of their mixed genres : 
The Betraying of Christ. Judas in Despaire. The Seven Words of 
Our Savior on the Crosse. With Other Poems on the Passion. 1 Two 
of these poems resemble Southwell's complaints. Judas in 
Despaire represents Judas feeding his despair with memories of 
the details of his betrayal of his Lord until he can cry 'Let 
hangmans part performe thy des'prate mind \ Peters Tears at the 
Cocks Crowing offers a like picture of Peter's horror as he hears 
the crowing of the cock and realizes that he has thrice denied 
his fellowship with Christ, even as Christ had foretold. It is 
interesting to hear an echo of the Spanish Tragedy in the line, 
'Let eies become the fountaines of my teares'. Other poems 
embroider Biblical passages in inadequate verse; none have the 
massive dignity of Southwell's poem on Peter. 

In 1605 there was entered on the Stationers' Register as 
'A theatre of divine recreation', a work which was to appear 
in that same year as A Theater of Delightful Recreation. The title 
under which it was entered gives a truer indication of its 
contents, for it is a collection of divine poems. One of the 
preliminary poems is addressed ' To all prophane Poets, wearing 
VENUS wanton liverie, with Cupids blind cognisance', whose 
poetic material Rowlands describes : 

One writes a Sonnet of his mistres fan, 
Blessing the bird that did the feathers beare: 
Another shewes himself as wise a man 
To rime upon the shoo-strings she doth weare 
And of her bodkin, scarfe, and paire of gloves, 
And little dog that she so kindly loves. 

Another prefatory poem addressed to the muses but with no 
author indicated, invokes c Calliope, divine and heavenly Muse ' 
rather than Urania, as might be expected. 'Adams Passion 
upon His Fall' is a complaint written in pentameter couplets 
which do not enhance the Biblical account, but is interesting in 
its use of direct discourse when Adam recalls his conversations 
with God and with Eve. Cain's complaint follows the same 

1 The quotations in regard to poetry's use are from the dedication to Sir Nicho- 
las Walsh. 

II 9 


method. Other poerns summarily recount the sins of the 
characters, still others give only versified versions of their 
speeches. Even 'The Mirrour of Chastitie , consists merely of 
the speeches of Potiphar's wife in her attempt to seduce the 
favourite of the Lord, but the author intrudes on her poeticized 
allurements to assure the reader that Joseph did remain chaste. 

Saint Peters Complaint is again brought to mind as we read 
Gervase Markam's Tears of the Beloved, published in 1600. John, 
the beloved disciple, shared with Peter and James the watch 
while Christ prayed at Gethsemane, and as with the others, 
sleep came upon him, so that the memory of his weakness must 
ever bring repentance and grief. The poem is a long poem, 
longer than Southwell's, for John describes the events that 
followed the anguish of Gethsemane. Much of the poem is, 
indeed, devoted to Judas, his betraying of Christ, his trial, all 
the sorrows that befell him. John thinks on others who have 
met disaster in their sleep, from Samson to Sisera, and he applies 
the lesson to all who sleep when religion is in danger. Yet he 
adds a note of consolation, 'For though we fell, yet God did 
us uphold', and he concludes that the victory will be Christ's 
at last, and he shall reign. 

A work intended to offer hope to the sinner, showing as in a 
mirror the mercy granted one of the most miserable of offenders, 
was Marie Magdalens Lamentations for the Losse of Her Master 
Jesus, It was published anonymously in 160 1 and again in 1604, 
having been registered in 1595. The final appeal from the un- 
known author is to the sinner who might be tempted to 

Oh Christian soule take Marie to thy mirrour, 

And if thou wilt the like effects obtaine, 
' Then follow her in like affections fervour, 

And so with her, like mercie shalt thou gaine : 
Learn sinfull man of this once sinfull woman, 
That sinners may find Christ, which sin abandon. 

The poem consists for the most part of a series of lamentations, 
sub-titles indicating the occasions on which the laments were 
uttered : 'At the tombe of Jesus ', ' For the losse of the bodie, 
which she came to annoint', 'Marie bewailes the losse of that 



part which Christ promised her: when he said, Marie hath 
chosen the better part, which shall not be taken from her', etc. 
Marie is apparently speaking of herself in the third person in 
' The Conclusion ', but it is difficult to tell whether the author 
is intruding in such passages. She speaks in the first person in 
the earlier laments. There is, unfortunately, more religious zeal 
than poetic inspiration in the poem. 1 

The Lamentation of the Lost Sheepe, in spite of its title, is not 
so much a lamentation as an invocation, spoken by one who 
has wandered from the fold, praying that the mercy may be 
bestowed on him which has been granted to other sinners whom 
he recalls as comfortable to his hopes. The poem was published 
in 1605, its author identified as G. E[llis]. That the author was 
consciously contributing to divine literature is indicated by the 
final stanza: 

I sing not I, of wanton-Love-sick laies, 
Or tickling toies, to feed fantastick eares : 
My MUSE respects no glozing tatling praise, 
A guiltie conscience thus sad passion bears : 
My straying from my Lord hath brought these tears 
My sinne-sick soule, with sorrow al besprent, 
Lamenting thus a wretched life misspent. 

Poems in which Biblical sinners poured out the stories of 
their own sins in such poetry as their English mediums could 
command continued to come from the printing presses for 
many years, 2 a particularly great number appearing in the 
twenties and thirties of the new century, but that is not part of 
my story. 

1 In a poetic preface the author speaks of 'exciting Collin in his graver Muses, / 
To tell the manner of her hearts repent'. The author here assumes as do many 
others that Mary Magdalen was the sister of Lazarus and Martha. The relevant 
passages are found in Luke x. 38-42 and John xi. 2. 

* Accounts of the publication of the Mirror and of its 'progeny' are found in 
William Farnham, The Medieval Heritage of Elizabethan Tragedy (Berkeley, 1936). 
pp. 271-339; Louis R. Zocca, Elizabethan Narrative Poetry (New Brunswick, 
N.J., i95o),pp. 3-93; Hallett Smith, Elizabethan Poetry (Cambridge, Mass., 1952); 
and in the prefaces to my editions of The Mirror for Magistrates (Cambridge, 1938) 
and Parts Added to The Mirror for Magistrates (Cambridge, 1946). 




The third divine poem in Sabie's 1 596 volume was David 
and Beersheba, 1 written to form one of the goodly com- 
pany about Shakespeare's Venus and Adonis. Lodge's 
Scillaes Metamorphosis or Glaucus and S cilia had appeared in 1 589, 
Venus and Adonis in 1593, Lucrece in 1 5 94, Barnfield's Cassandra 
and Drayton's Endimion and "Phoebe in 1595. Marlowe's Hero 
and hsander had been registered in 1593 and was well known 
though it apparently remained unpublished until 1598. David 
and Beersheba was thus issued when this kind of poem was at the 
height of its popularity. C. S. Lewis is the first I think to 
identify the 'kind' by its classical name of epyllion, 2 Kathleen 
Tillotson having simply described it as ' a mythological-erotic 
poem, its action retarded with encrustations of description, 
simile, and "sentence '".3 The Oxford Classical Dictionary notes 
further that c a distinctive feature is the digression'. Except that 
Bible story is substituted for that of pagan mythology Sabie's 
poem conforms to the characteristics of the type. 

A description of the noon-tide heat in the first stanza is 
followed by the direct plunge into the narrative in the second : 

Such time as Tytan with his fiery beames 

In highest degree, made duskish Leo sweat : 

Field-tilling Swains drive home their toiling teams, 

Out- wearied with ardencie of heat : 

And country heards to seeke a shadie seate: 
All mortall things from fervency of weather, 
In sheltring shades doe shroud themselves together. 

1 The S.T.C. uses the spelling Bathsheba. 

2 C. S. Lewis, p. 323. A. M. Duff in the Oxford Classical Dictionary (Oxford, 
1953) defines Epyllion: 'a literary type popular from Theocritus to Ovid, was a 
narrative poem of about ioo to 600 hexameters; the subject was usually taken 
from the life of a mythical hero or heroine, the love motif being prominent in 
later epyllia. Some dialogue and at least one speech generally appear. A distinc- 
tive feature is the digression.' 

3 Drayton, Works, vol. v, p. 19. See also Douglas Bush, Mythology and the 
Renaissance Tradition in English Poetry (1932), pp. 81-5, 136-8, and 156-163. 



Beersheba wife unto Urias stout, 

A captaine under Joab of renowne : 

Whom princely David with a warring rout 

Had sent to beat the pride of Ammon downe, 

And to besiege and ransacke Kabbah towne, 
Betooke her selfe into a garden faire, 
Inricht with flowers, which sent a pleasant ayre. 

After an extended description of the flowers in the garden, the 
sweetest of which she picks, Beersheba dips her fingers in the 
pool and decides to bathe in it: 

Then nimbly castes she off her Damaske frocke, 

Her Satten stole most curiously made : 

Her Partlet needle-wrought, her Cambricke smocke, 

And on a seat thereby them nicely laid, 

And so to wash her in the well assay'd. 

O shut thine eies Narcissus come not neere, 

Least in the well a burning fire appeare. 

David mounts his look-out tower, and the author again cries 
out a warning with a classical allusion: 

Stop Ishas sonne thine eares, keep sayles on hie, 
Lest Syrens songs doe drawe thy mind awry. 

But David's heart which had never known evil now ' stroke with 
burning fever quaked'. The seduction is modestly described: 

And now begins the combatant assault, 

Betweene the willing flesh and nilling spirit, 

The flesh alluring him unto the fault, 

The spirit tels him of a dreadful merit, 

And in the end flesh conquered the spirit. 

He sends, she came, he wooes, she gave consent, 
And did the deed, not fearing to be shent. 

The author again cries out ' What has thou done, O Psalmist, 
blush for shame', before he proceeds with the narrative. He 
dwells at greater length on David's treachery in sending for 
Urias, in trying to make him go home to Beersheba, on Urias's 
cunning in his refusal, and on David's final desperate sending 
of the husband back to Joab to be slain in battle. The author 
comments : 

Thus evermore sinne leadeth unto sinne, 
A lesser ends, and greater doth begin. 



The judgment of the Lord is pronounced by the prophet 
Nathan, who comes as David and Beersheba weep for their 
dying child, the child born of their sinful love. Recounting the 
great things that God has done for the shepherd's boy in raising 
him to be King of Israel, Nathan tells the story which furnishes 
the digression for the epyllion. It is the story of the miserly 
rich man who, to feast the stranger who visited him, took and 
killed the ' one little sheep ' belonging to the poor neighbour. 
David, possessed of many wives and concubines, had yet 
coveted the one wife that Urias had, and, as Nathan points the 
moral, David is moved to repentance, so that 

Rise up (quoth Nathan) God doth hear thy crie, 
Thy sin is pardon'd, but thy child shall die. 

David then, as befits the poet of the Bible, * warbled out this 
Ode ', and the ode of thirteen stanzas is written with consider- 
able poetic skill, as perhaps can be seen from this first stanza: 

O Great Creator of the starrie Pole, 

and heavenly things : 
O mighty founder of the earthly mole, 

chief king of Kings. 
Whose gentle pardon evermore is nere, 
To them which crie unfaynedly with feare, 

Distrest with sin, 

I now begin, 
To come to thee, O Lord give eare. 

To a David sorrowing over his sins God grants mercy 'And aU 
his sinnes did race out of his booke \ 

The metre of the poem is that of hucrece, and characteristics 
common to Shakespeare's companion poems are here : narrative 
interrupted by long descriptive passages, dialogue spoken as 
direct discourse, phrase epithets, moral comment by the author, 
and a digression. There are similes, too, but not in the epic 

Lucrece seems often to have called to mind the Biblical story 
of Susanna. Shakespeare's luucrece was published in 1594, and 
ten years earlier, in 1584, there had been published a prose 
romance by Robert Greene, entitled The Myrrour of Modestie, 



embroidering the story of Susanna. G. Knox Pooler in the 
English Arden edition of Shakespeare *s Poems called attention to 
the like method of telling and of embellishing the story in 
Shakespeare's two long poems and in Greene's romance, and 
he compared passages in "Lucrece with passages in The Myrrour 
of Modestie which in their ' similarity of meaning and context ' 
may have given hints to the later and greater writer. At any 
rate the similarity between the classical and the Biblical proto- 
types of chastity was apparently recognized by Robert Roche 
when in 1599 he published at Oxford his poem on Eustathia or 
the Constancie of Susanna. His Address to the Reader warned : 

Expect not heere, th'invention, or the vaine, 

Of *Lucrece rape-write : or the curious scan, 

Of Phillis friend; or famous faery- JW/w; 

Or Delias prophet, or admired man. 

My chicken fethered winges, no ympes enrich, 
Pens not full sum'd, mount not so high a pitch. 

The story of Susanna had been used by Robinson to teach the 
wages of slander in depicting the case of her judges ; here it is 
used to tell the blessedness of chastity. The poem is written in 
rhyme royal as was Lucrece, though the prologue is written in 
the six-line stanza of Venus and Adonis and Rosamond and others 
of the type. There is a good deal of matter added to the Bible 
record before we reach the account of the attempted rape of 
Susanna. What the Bible does not provide is the long recital of 
her birth, education, courtship, and marriage, the most striking 
thing about the poem being the set of instructions and the 
advice offered the girl. Her mother 'With rod in hand, to 
keepe her babe in awe', early taught her good manners and 
good doctrine. Helchia instructs his 'sweete Suse' in the 
history of her race and in the precepts of grace and modesty. 
Whether the young poet with his ' chicken fethered winges ' was 
striving to offer a digression to make his poem fit a pattern, 
I cannot tell, but there are two sections that may be so regarded. 
The one is the account of the institution of marriage, the other 
the debate between nature and conscience in Susanna's soul 
when she is past two times seven years old. But the many pages 



which embellish and embroider the simple Biblical statement 
that 'her parents also were righteous, and taught their daughter 
according to the law of Moses ' are in themselves something 
of a digression in the ordinary meaning of the word. 

Suitors come to woo Susanna, and epic similes are massed 
to describe her choice : 

But as the mounting Eagle, in the winde, 
Disdeines to stoope and check base flockes of flies, 
Or as a club-griping Hercules ', by kind, 
Doth single combate, with a dwarfe dispise, . . . 

Yet as in gardens, whear all herbes do grow, 
Some fragrant are, whose sweetenesse doth excell, 
Though some eie-pleasing lilies trimlie shew, 
When as they yeeld the sent, a loathsome smell, . . . 

For as, while those bright globes of rare accoumpt, 
And splendant plannets, in their spheeres do ronne, 
One is superior, and doth all surmount, 
Without compare, aye gloryous shininge sonne, . . . 

The similes are finally resolved in the choice of one who by 
his 'neate beehavior, grace, and bounty bright', dimmed all 
the others as the sun dims candlelight. The plethora of long- 
drawn-out comparisons gives evidence of the determination of 
the fledgling poet to write his divine poem in the manner of 
his models. So, too, does his use of phrase-epithets, such as 
club-gripping (quoted above), lust-breathed, hunger-starved, — 
epithets which are generally laborious and often inappropriate, 
never carrying that connotative aura with which Shakespeare 
often intrigues us. 

Of more importance, though not more revealing, is the 
general structure of the poem with its narrative base, its des- 
criptive passages, its dialogues carried on in direct discourse, 
its moral comments, its recital of other instances of lust and 
crime. ' What did prowd Paris gaine, to gad to Greece, / To fet 
that mynion, Menelaus wife?' he asks, and he recalls the history 
of Sardanapalus and of David. 

The Biblical story, long postponed, is ■ finally told, with 
amplification and additions. The lustful elders — here called 



seniors — hesitate a moment as they rush toward Susanna in her 
bath, and Satan appears to urge them to new fury, so that 
'Good motions cannot enter, or come nigh them'. Her cries 
bring servants and husband. The seniors defame her with their 
lies, she is condemned, and Daniel frees her, cunningly detect- 
ing the falsity of their charges by finding they disagree as to 
under which kind of tree the outrage was committed. Two 
rather long lyrics are spoken by Susanna, one a prayer for 
divine help, the other a hymn of praise in which the author is 
able to express something of her exultation : 

The mightty Lord (saith shee) 

Is my defence and might. 

My king, my guide, my God; 

My champion, for to fight. 

The combate of my truth and conscience triall. 

He is my Anchor-hold, 

My refuge, rest, and port. 

My home of saving health, 

And eke my strongest fort. 

Gainst whose command, there standeth no denial. 

Susanna's progress through a cautious life to a virtuous old 
age is chronicled as is also her final advice to her children, and 
the author appends an epilogue to make the moral clear. 

Saint Marie Magdalens Conversion is a love poem of a different 
kind. Instead of contrasting human love and lust, it deals with 
the victory of the love of the Lord over the base passions in 
the human soul. It was published with only 'IHS' and 
'Printed with license' appearing on the title-page with the 
title of the poem. The 'Author to the Reader' is, however, 
signed 'I.C and is dated 'This last of January 1603'. The 
opening stanzas place it in opposition to the poems of human 
passion : 

Of Romes great conquest in the elder age, 
When she the world made subject to her thrall, 
Of lovers giddy fancies, and the rage, 
Wherewith that passion is possest withall, 
When jelousie with love doth share a part, 
And breedes a civill warre within the harte. 



Of Helens rape, and Trqyes beseiged Towne, 

Of Trqylus faith, and Cressids falsitie, 

Of Rychards stratagems for the english crowne, 

Of Tar quins lust, and Lucrece chastitie, 

Of these, of none of these my muse now treates, 

Of greater conquests, warres, and loves she speakes. 

A womans conquest of her one affects, 

A womans warre with her selfe-appetite, 

A womans love, breeding such effects, 

As th'age before nor since nere brought to light, 

Of these; and such as these, my muse is prest, 

To spend the idle houres of her rest. 

Instead of an invocation to the Muses, there is a prayer to Saint 
Marie, seeking her intercession with her Lord that he may give 
such grace to these rhymes that readers may come to repentance. 
It is a narrative poem in the frequently used six-hne stanza, 
written with the usual ' encrustation of description, simile, and 
"sentence",' to use Mrs Tillotson's words again. It shows 
Marie Magdalen as she perceives ' the errors of her life / Which 
makes her with her selfe to be in strife'. But she does not see 
what she can do. She cannot go to her good sister, or to her 
kinsmen, and surely not to strangers, for her reputation bars 
her from taking refuge with any of them. If she had sinned 
only once, there might have been hope, but she had sinned 
habitually. A simile of epic proportions is introduced as she 
ponders : 

Much like a crasie weather-beaten boate, 
Who having all his syales and tacklinges loste, 
Amid the surges of the seas doth floate, 
And too and fro with everie guste is toste: 
So waves my anxious soul mid'st stormy feares 
No harbor can she finde, no calme appears. 

As she considers seeking out Jesus, she is beset with doubts, 
and her soul holds a parliament, where instead of the argument 
between the characters featured in other erotic poems we hear 
a debate between personified abstractions. Memory is heard, 
and Hope, urging the mercy shown to other sinners. Strong 
Opinion is heard too, and Distrust and Fear, while Will is 
introduced as handmaid to the rest. Hope can argue Christ's 



pity, but Distrust speaks of divine justice. At last Marie is 
emboldened to go to Jesus, assured that Contrition will beg 
Remission for her sins. 'Like to a Trav'ler in an unknowne 
way', Marie's confusion is interpreted in another simile. Her 
outward acts must show her inward love for her Lord, and 
when she finds him, she pours precious oil upon his head, and 
prostrating herself before him, wets his feet with her tears and 
dries them with her hair. There is introduced an apostrophe to 
silence, the four stanzas of which begin with words that suggest 
the fundamental discipline of the nun : 

O silence; Companion of the wise, 
Thou surest note of spotless Chastitie. 

The latter part of the poem is given over to showing the con- 
stancy of Marie's devotion, for ' When his Disciples fearfully 
dismai'de / From persecutions angrie passions fled, / Shee 
constantlie attendes him to his passion'. Mingling her tears 
with his blood, she embraces the tree on which he is crucified, 
taunting the Jews whose deeds have made the heavens black, 
the sun to hide, the earth to tremble, the dead to arise, and the 
rocks to break asunder. She speaks to his mother, and when 
Joseph has taken his body away, she departs in sadness, ' Like 
to a Turtle having lost her mate'. When Marie returns to the 
'monument', unafraid of all the terrors of night, which the 
poet describes, 

Love made her strong although herselfe were weake, 

Love gave swifte winges unto her quicke desire, 

Love added fire to her former heate: 

Of doubtes nor dangers Love doth not enquire, 

O powerful love, thou dost no perilles cast, 

The bitt'rest pilles seeme pleasant to thy taste. 

As Marie finds the monument empty, she rails at the supposed 
thieves who have stolen her Lord away. But the angels appear 
to comfort her, and finally Jesus himself in the likeness of a 
gardener. The author ends his poem with praise and prayer, 
and in spite of the determined and inept similes, his sincere 
devotion gives dignity to his offering. 




Wyatt introduced to England the sonnet of fourteen 
lines of pentameter verse, and such sonnets continued 
to be written throughout the sixteenth century, 
though the term sonnet was very loosely applied for many years, 
as everyone knows who is familiar with the many collections 
of songs and sonnets. Sonnets were printed in miscellanies, 
they appeared among the dedicatory verses in numerous 
volumes, and Byrd provided music for two of Sidney's in a 
volume which I have already mentioned. In 1 569 Spenser used 
unrhymed sonnets for his translations from the Book of Revela- 
tion, and the publication of Thomas Watson's Hecatompathia, 
or Passionate Century of Love in 1582 began the publication of 
collections of sonnets to be regarded as unified works (though 
Watson's were not orthodox sonnets). It was not, however, 
until Sidney's Astrophel and Stella appeared in 1591 that the 
sonnet sequence came to be one of the most popular forms of 
literature in England. Sidney's work was printed three times 
within a year. Then came Constable's Diana and Daniel's Delia 
in 1592; Lodge's Phillis, Barnabe Barnes's Parthenophil and 
Parthenophe, Giles Fletcher's Ucia 9 and a second cycle by 
Thomas Watson, The Tears of Fancy, in 1593; William Percy's 
Celia and new editions of Constable's Diana and Daniel's Delia 
in 1594; Spenser's Amoretti and Barnfield's Cynthia in 1595. 
There were other collections of later date and a good many of 
lesser importance, but this list is enough to make clear why it 
seemed necessary that divine sonnets 1 should be written if 
Biblical story was to compete with the chronicles of love's 
agonies and ecstasies. 

Henry Lok (or Locke) was one of those who contributed a 
sonnet of praise to King James's Poeticall Exercises in 1591. 
A letter of 18 May 15 91, quoted by Westcott, says that Lok 

1 J. G. Scott in Les Sonnets £lisabethains (Paris, 1929) included a section, 
pp. 217-27, devoted to 'sonnets chr^tiens'. On the possible indebtedness to 
continental sources of Constable and Barnes see pp. 217-21. 



has been in Scotland more than a year and a half, and that ' his 
majesty and the queen have conceived no little opinion of his 
honest behavior, so that they would willingly employ him in 
their service'. According to Westcott he had been 'sent to 
Scotland to help carry out Elizabeth's ingenious and persistent 
policy of setting Scottish lords against their king', and his 
activities continued until 1602. His intrigues with Both well 
and Colville got him ultimately into trouble, and after 1603 
he was addressing his appeals to Cecil from the Gatehouse and 
the Clink. 1 But when in 1 593 his Sundry Christian Passions Con- 
tained in two hundred Sonnets was published by Richard Field, 
he was certainly engaged in literary work which would win 
favour with the Scottish King, who was probably engaged in a 
similar exercise himself. Lok dedicated his book to Queen 
Elizabeth and prefixed his work with an ingeniously devised 
square which, when analysed, contributed a votive offering to 
her. To the Christian Reader he explained that he had ' rather 
followed the force of mine owne inward feeling, then outward 
ornaments of Poeticall fictions or amplifications, as best be- 
seeming the naked clothing of simple truth, & true Analogie 
of the nature of the Histories whereto they alude, and harmonie 
of scriptures whence they are borrowed'. 2 In spite, however, 
of his professed desire to look in his heart and write and his 
disavowal of poetical ornament, it is quite evident that Lok 
was not unacquainted with the 'conceited' sonnets of his 

Lok divides his work into two sections, the first consisting 
of 'Meditations, Humiliations, and Praiers', the second ex- 
pressing ' Comfort, Joy, and Thanksgiving'. Each, in addition 
to its hundred, had a sonnet as Preface, and another as Con- 
clusion, so that altogether there were two hundred and four 
sonnets. I wonder whether he should not be given credit for 

1 Westcott, pp. xlii-xliii and n. 5 to p. xlii. For Lok's dealings with Bothwell 
and Colville, see Helen G. Stafford, James VI of Scotland and the Throne of "England 
(New York, 1940), ch. in. 

2 I have used a photostat facsimile reproduced from the copy of the 1593 
edition in the Huntington Library. Grosart printed the edition which had been 
published with Ecclesiastes in 1597, Miscellanies of the Fuller Worthies' Library 
(Printed for Private Circulation, 1871) vol. n, pp. 137-449. 

131 9 - 2 


writing the longest sonnet sequence of them all. The first 
hundred are generally written with three linked quatrains and 
a final couplet. The second hundred are written in varied 
patterns for the quatrains, but all retain the closing couplet. 
One method by which Lok used Bible story as his frame of 
reference can be seen in the way in which he uses the story of 
Jonah. I quote the first quatrain: 

Fro out the darkness of this sea of feare, 
Where I in whale remaine devourde of sin, 
With true remorse of former life I reare 
My heart to heaven, in hope some help to win. (Son. n.) 

Parables, too, can be given new interpretation, as can be seen 
in the sonnet dealing with the five foolish virgins : 

Five foolish virgins in my senses dwell, 
And seeke to make me slumber over long, 
They dreame, that all my deeds do fall out well, 
Whereas indeed I headlong run to wrong: 

To vanities their humours do belong, 

And sin who doth their fancie chiefly feed, 
They cheined are to linkes of lust so strong, 
That their best soile, brings forth but bitter weed. 

They lacke the oyle which should be usde in deed, 
To lead them to the everlasting light: 
It growes not Lord in frute of humane seed, 
Man sleepes all day and gropes his way at night. 
Unlesse thou lend thy hand and fill our lampes, 
Our light goes forth with smothering sinful damps. 

(Son. xvn.) 

From the second section I quote one sonnet to show how in 
some of the sonnets Bible story is almost incidental, though 
the spiritual theme remains constant. I have chosen this par- 
ticular sonnet because of the 'Dolfins did Aryons musicke 
beare ' passage which might indicate that Lok as well as Shake- 
speare watched the pageantry at Kenilworth in 1 5 75 . It serves 
to illustrate too the way in which Lok used in many of the later 
sonnets an internal rhyme in the first line of the couplet, em- 
phasizing its presence by beginning the next word with a 
capital letter: 



Who so of perfect temprature is framde, 
Must needs delight in heavenly harmony, 
His sences so shall be renude thereby, 
As savage beasts by Orpheus harpe were tamde, 

Young Davids harpe Sauls furious spirit shamde, 
And Dolflns did Aryons musicke beare, 
Such sympathie in all things doth appeare, 
That never musicke was by wisedome blamde, 

But he that could conceive with judgment cleare, 
The sweet records that heavenly motions cry, 
Their constant course that never swarves awry, 
But by discords, whose concords after cheare, 
Would hold so deare, The mover of the same, 
That love of him should base affections tame. 

(Son. lxiiii.) 

In 1597, Field published Lok's Ecclesiastes abridged and 
dilated in English poesie, which I have written about in discussing 
the translations of the Bible into English verse. To this volume 
were appended the Sundry Christian Passions and also a whole 
flock of dedicatory sonnets addressed to almost everyone of 
influence. Presumably these sonnets accompanied hopeful 
presentation copies of the author's works. Among those 
addressed are the Countess of Pembroke (Sidney's sister), the 
Countess of Essex (formerly Sidney's wife), and Lady Rich 
(Sidney's Stella and Essex's sister); Archbishop Whitgift and 
Bishop Toby Matthew ; Lord Burleigh, the Earl of Essex, Sir 
Walter Raleigh, Fulke Greville, and Edward Dyer. It is a 
comprehensive list, but Lok's claim upon the people he ad- 
dressed is unknown. We do know, however, that he must have 
been writing his divine sonnets when he was seeking the favour 
of the Scottish King and would-be poet, comparing himself to 
the fly that would perish in the flame if he attempted to imitate 
that royal quill. 1 

Another English poet to address a laudatory sonnet to King 
James in his Poetical! Exercises was Henry Constable, whose 
fame as a sonneteer was to be established by his Diana a year 
later. Constable was a zealous Catholic, and ' from 1 5 84 on', he 
had been as Westcott says, * an active Catholic messenger both 

1 The comparison is made in the sonnet addressed to King James in the 
Poeticall Exercises. 



at home and abroad'. It is curious to see him and Lok both as 
members of the King's literary circle, both political agents but 
on quite conflicting missions, both authors of divine sonnet 
sequences. Constable came in the interest of Arabella Stuart, 
and a letter of 20 October 1589, quoted by Westcott reports 
that he was having secret conferences with the King, and that 
he had a commission from Essex and Lord and Lady Rich. 
His activities forced him into exile, but I need not follow his 
career there. He came home after the death of Elizabeth, but 
we find him in the Tower, from which he was released in 1604. 
He remained largely unnoticed until his death in 161 3. He 
addressed sonnets to, among others, Queen Elizabeth, Arabella 
Stuart, Lady Rich, the Countess of Essex, the Countesses of 
Cumberland and Warwick, 1 and the Countess of Shrewsbury, 
in whose custody * his dear Mistresse ' (Mary Queen of Scots) 
was then living. He addressed, in all, four sonnets to King James. 
Of most interest to this study are, however, the four sonnets 
prefixed to Sidney's Apologiefor Poetrie printed by Henry Olney 
in 1595, ' written by Henrie Constable to Sir Phillip Sidney's 
soule'. 2 

Though his sonnets to Delia were published in two editions, 
though Olney dared to print the sonnets to Sidney's soul, and 
though Constable's poems might appear in a collection of 
miscellaneous poems, his Spiritual! Sonnettes to the Honour of God 
and His Sayntes remained unprinted until the nineteenth century, 
presumably because of their definitely Catholic orientation. 
Not only the Bible but the lives of the saints furnish the back- 
ground story, and one sonnet is addressed 'To the blessed 
sacrament'. Of the seventeen printed by W. C. Hazlitt four 
are offered ' To our blessed Lady', four ' To St Mary Magdalen', 
one 'To God the Father', one 'To God the Sonne', and one 
'To God the Holy Ghost', while St Michael, St John the 

1 It was to these two ladies that Spenser dedicated his Fowre Hymnes. 

2 Concerning Constable see Westcott, pp. xxxvi-xxxviii, and W. C. Hazlitt's 
Diana: The Sonnets and Other 'Poems of Henry Constable , B.A. of St John's College, 
Cambridge, with notes and illustration by Thomas Park (London, 1859). The 
Poems & Sonnets of Henry Constable, ed. by John Gray and ornamented by Charles 
Picketts, published by the Ballantyne Press in 1 897, provides a text without intro- 
duction or notes. My references are to the Hazlitt text. 



Baptist, St Peter and St Paul, St Katherine and St Margaret 
are hailed in the other five. I quote the first sonnet, * To God 
the Father', because it illustrates the mystical and devotional 
side of his divine poetry : 

Greate God! within whose"symple essence wee 
Nothyng but that which ys thy self can fynde : 
When on thy self thou dyddst reflect thy mynde, 
Thy thought was God, which tooke the forme of Thee; 
And when this God, thus borne, thou lov'st, and Hee 
Lov'd thee agayne with passion of lyke kynde, 
(As lovers syghes which meete, become one mynde,) 
Both breath'd one spryght of aequall Deitye. 
^Eternal Father! whence theis twoe doe come 
And wil'st the tytle of my father have, 
A heavenly knowledge in my mynde engrave, 
That yt thy Sonne's true image may become, 

And sente my hart with syghes of holy love, 

That yt the temple of thy Spryght may prove. (Son. i.) 

The sonnet ' To St Peter and St Paul ' lets his classical education 
shine through as well as his Catholic predilection: 

He that for feare hys mayster dyd denye, 
And at a mayden's voyce amazed stoode, 
The myghtyest monarche of the earth withstoode, 
And on his mayster's crosse rejoyc'd to dye. 

He whose blynde zeale dyd rage with crueltye, 
And helpt to shedd the fyrst of martyr's bloode, 
By lyght from heaven hys blyndenesse understoode, 
And with the cheife apostle slayne doth lye. 

O three tymes happy twoe! O golden payre! 

Who with your bloode dyd lay the churches grounde 
Within the fatall towne, which twynnes dyd founde, 

And setled there the Hebrew fisher's chayre, 

Where fyrst the Latyn sheepehyrd rais'd his throne, 

And synce the world and church were rul'd by one. (Son. 8.) 

He can address St Margaret as * Fayre Amazon of heaven ' and 
hope that Cupid ' May gett his syght, and lyke an angell prove ', 
but he can use Biblical story figuratively also, as when he speaks 
of repentance : 

So shall my sowle no foolysh vyrgyn bee 

With empty lampe: but, lyke a Magdalen, beare 
For oyntment boxe a breast with oyle of grace : 



And so the zeale, which then shall burne in mee, 
May make my hart lyke to a lampe appere, 
And in my spouse's pallace gyve me place. (Son. 1 5 .) 

The variation in the rhyming pattern of the sestet in this sonnet 
is also characteristic of Constable's sonnets, though it is the 
choice of Biblical allusions that is of interest here. 

When Judicio in the Second Part of the Re fume from Parnassus 
was passing judgment upon the poets of England before the 
students of Constable's own Cambridge college in 1601, he 
had kind words for him: 

Sweete Constable doth take the wondring eare, 
And layes it up in willing prisonment. 

But when he was asked about the two others we have seen as 
members of King James's literary coterie, Lok and Hudson, 
he spoke scornfully and in prose : 

Locke and Hudson, sieepe, you quiet shavers, among the shavings 
of the presse, and let your bookes lye in some old nookes amongst 
old bootes and shooes, so you may avoide my censure. 1 

Barnabe Barnes dedicated his Foure Bookes of Offices to 
King James, but the dedication came in 1606, when James was 
King of England. Even Mark Eccles, who has made the most 
diligent search for material concerning his life, can find little 
about it after 1598 and can only say that his friend William 
Percy in his commendation in this book 'permits us to hope, 
if not to believe, that he had really become a changed spirit'. 2 
The son of a father who had been in turn Bishop of Notting- 
ham, Bishop of Carlisle, and Bishop of Durham, he justified all 
taunts regularly hurled at clergymen's children. He matricu- 
lated at Brasenose College in 1586, but did not stay to get an 
Oxford degree. He went on Essex's expedition to Normandy 
in 15 91. In 1593 he published his Parthenophil and Parthenophe, 

1 G. G. Smith, vol. 11, pp. 401-2. 

1 Mark Eccles, 'Barnabe Barnes' in C. J. Sisson, Thomas Lodge and Other 
Elizabethans (Cambridge, Mass., Harvard Press, 1933), pp. 165-241. My facts 
are taken from this account. See also Thomas Campion's Epigrams in G. G. 
Smith, vol. 11, p. 346, and John Harington's Epigrams on Lynus, p. 52 and index. 
I have used A. B. Grosart's reprint in Occasional Issues of Very Rare Books (privately 
printed, 1871), vol. 1. 



which Eccles calls ' a more extensive collection of love poetry 
than an English author had ever before published \ It contained 
a great variety of lyric poetry written in many metres in addition 
to the sonnets. He entered the lists on the side of Harvey in 
the Harvey-Nashe quarrel, and Nashe ridiculed his braggart 
bravery and his literary ventures, asserting that he and Chute 
could not know how to knock at a printing-house door until 
they consorted with Gabriel Harvey. 

About this time he seems to have become aware of the 
popularity of Du Bartas and divine poetry, for in a letter of 
June 1593 to Harvey he recommends that Harvey turn his 
endeavours to * the highest treasury of heavenly Muses ', and 
he takes his leave with a sonnet of that * Muse, that honoreth the 
Urany of du Bartas, and yourself. It is not surprising, there- 
fore, that in 1595 he published A Divine Centurie of Spiritual! 
Sonnets with a dedication to Bishop Toby Matthew, his father's 
successor as Bishop of Durham, the dedication copy * bound 
in vellum with a gold border and each page ornamented \ 
Addressing the Christian Reader he acknowledges the primacy 
of the great French divine poet: 

if any man feels in himself (by the secret fire of immortall Enthu- 
siasme) the learned motions of strange and divine passions of 
spirite, let him refine and illuminate his numerous Muses with the 
most sacred splendour of the Holy Ghost, and then he shall (with 
divine Salust the true learned frenche Poet) finde that as humane 
furie maketh a man lesse then a man ... so divine rage and sacred 
instinct of a man maketh more then man. 

The first sonnet indicates that, like all followers of Du Bartas 
and Urania, he is turning from his earliest profane verse to 
divine poetry: 

No more lewde laies of Lighter loves I sing, 
Nor teach my lustfull Muse abus'de to flie, 
With Sparrowes plumes and for compassion crie, 

To mortall beauties which no succour bring. 

But my Muse fethered with an Angels wing, 
Divinely mounts aloft unto the skie, 
Where her loves subjects with my hopes do lie: 

For Cupids darts prefigurate hell's sting. 



His quenchlesse Torch foreshadowes hell's quenchles fire, 
Kindling mens wits with lustful laies of sinne : 

Thy wounds my Cure, deare Saviour I desire 
To pearce my thoughts thy fierie Cherubinnes 

(By kindling my desires) true zeale t'infuse, 

Thy love my theame, and holy Ghost my Muse ! 

A great number of these sonnets are in the nature of prayers 
offered to his 'Sweete Saviour', 'Sacred Redeemer', 'Deare 
Comforter', 'Lovely Samaritane', 'Great God of Abraham', 
and to Divinity under similar aspects. The Bible stories are 
implicit for the most part rather than woven in figurative 
language into the texture of the poems. 

Barnes's divine interlude does not seem to have been more 
than that, for Eccles has traced his picaresque career through 
the time of his adventures in the Border feuds which culminated 
in his arrest in 1598 for having poisoned John Browne, the 
Recorder of Berwick. 

It is possible that he became a clergyman but, as Eccles says, 
we can rather hope than believe that he was a reformed 
character under King James. What his divine poems show is 
that he was following in the Du Bartas tradition rather than 
that he was a spiritual leader. 






Wh e n in the eighteenth century the resourceful Hannah 
More undertook to provide suitable intellectual food 
for the young scholars in her charge and compiled 
her Sacred Dramas, they elicited the scornful description of Peter 
Pindar as dramas ' Where all the Nine and little Moses snore'. 1 
The ' divine ' dramas 2 written in the sixteenth century originated 
in the same laudable desire that prompted Miss Hannah More 
to her task and sometimes produce the same effect, but they 
constitute an important and much neglected part of the history 
of the drama. In the general movement to create a divine 
literature to compete with or to supplant the pagan literature 
and its secular offspring which the Revival of Learning had 
produced, the drama played a substantial part on the continent 
of Europe. The continental precedent was inevitably influential 
in England, though there the movement culminated in no 
dramatic Milton and never reached the proportions that it did 
in some parts of Europe, particularly in the Jesuit schools of 
the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Yet there was in 
England, as part of this general movement, a very considerable 
body of divine plays, the significance of which has been passed 
over by the historians of English drama. 

The principal reason for the neglect of the divine dramas has 
been that they have been considered merely an aftermath of 
the miracle play, whereas they are really a new crop and must, 

1 [John Wolcot], The lj)usiad in The Works of Peter Pindar (London, 1816), 
vol. 1, p. 145. 

2 John M. Manly, ' The Miracle Play in Mediaeval England ', Essays by Divers 
Hands, new series, vol. vn (London, 1927), pp. 134-53, distinguished the miracle 
plays from the scriptural cycles as ' plays of the lives and sufferings and miracles 
of saints and martyrs'. I have, however, ventured to depart from the teaching of 
my teacher in referring to the cycle plays as miracles, as the ' Wyclifite ' and other 
writers, including E. K. Chambers, have done. I have used the term divine plays 
alternately with Scriptural 01 Biblical plays. They were called sacred plays by George 
Buchanan and by Hannah More. 



I think, be considered independently. They differ from the 
miracles in content, in form, and in purpose, though that 
purpose became obscured to some of their later writers. 

Like the miracles, the divine plays which I shall discuss were 
derived from Biblical story, but there the likeness ceases. The 
writers of the miracle plays chose for the most part stories of 
the wonders chronicled in the Bible or in the lives of the martyrs, 
much as the universities which today stage scientific exhibitions 
for the multitude demonstrate the wonders of science, from the 
making of artificial snowflakes to the workings of the mechanical 
brain or the cyclotron. When they presented the ministry of 
Christ, they were more often concerned with the miracles he 
performed than with his sermons. In the great English cycles 
they attempted to show the whole Christian story from the 
Creation to the Last Judgment as the Church analysed it and to 
picture the plan of salvation as the Church conceived it. 1 

The authors of the new Scriptural drama generally chose 
stories from the Old Testament, very often from the Apocry- 
pha, frequently supplementing their accounts from the works of 
Josephus. When they turned to the New Testament, it was the 
sermons and particularly the parables that most often seemed 
to suit their purpose. Their concern was with the special 
problems of their own time: whether faith or good works 
assured eternal salvation, whether a vow once made should be 
kept even though it had been foolishly made, how to train a 
child according to Biblical precept. They sometimes also used 
Biblical history as secular history was being used to furnish a 
political mirror to their contemporaries. 

The new Scriptural dramas were not written in a single form, 
for they followed whatever structural pattern was being used 
by the secular plays they were rivalling. When the school- 
masters wanted to use them to teach classical Latin as well as 
assurance and deportment in public speaking, they wrote Latin 
plays based on Biblical stories as substitutes for classical plays 
of pagan origin. They imitated Terence and Plautus and Euri- 

1 Father Harold C. Gardiner, Mysteries' End: An Investigation of the Last Days 
of the Medieval Religious Stage (New Haven, 1946), Yak Studies in English, vol. 103, 
argues that it was political anti-Catholicism that caused the cycle plays to be put 
down within the period 1569-80. See particularly p. 72 for his thesis. 



pides and Seneca as they understood them. When other writers 
experimented with Biblical interludes in English, they wrote 
them in the fashion current in secular interludes. When pro- 
fessional dramatists later wrote Biblical plays for the public 
theatres, they shaped them for the stages on which they were 
to be produced and gave the audience what they would pay 
for in the way of spectacle or rhetoric. It is this changing pat- 
tern of the Scriptural plays which needs to be specially noted, 
for they met the competition of secular offerings by pouring 
Biblical story into the currently accepted forms. 

These differences in subject-matter and in form were at least 
in part the result of the purpose which motivated their original 
creators. The miracle play is recognized as a descendant of the 
drama which originated in the Church. In its most characteristic 
English form, the cycle play, it furnished a living picture of 
God's plan for man's redemption after his fall from innocence 
and bliss. 1 The divine play of the sixteenth century, on the 
other hand, was a part of the opposition movement to glorify 
the God of the Christians instead of the pagan gods; to use 
Bible stories because they were true, as opposed to the lies of 
fiction; and to offer Christian modes of conduct instead of the 
depravity shown in secular works. However much they de- 
parted from these ideals set forth by their promoters and de- 
fenders, it must be borne in mind that their origin in opposition 
to a great extent determined their content as well as their form. 

In giving an account of the English divine drama published 
or produced before the end of the Tudor reigns I have perforce 
found it necessary to give some account of the origins of the 
movement to create this new kind of drama. I have, however, 
not attempted to give a history of the divine drama on the 
continent, a task for which I am unfitted even if it were possible 
in a single book. I have, therefore, attempted only to give a 
brief account of the origins of the movement which lent the 

1 Since I wrote this chapter, I have seen Hardin Craig's English Religious Drama 
of the Middle Ages (Oxford, 1955) in which he says (p. 355): 'The mystery plays 
were not primarily doctrinal and did not derive their popularity from the syste- 
matic support of the Catholic Church, since they were religious in their origin and 
nature rather than ecclesiastical.' Though primarily is a safety word, I should 
point out that religion was not divorced from the Church's teaching at this period. 



initial impetus to the writing of similar plays in England and 
to notice particularly those continental plays which were pro- 
duced or published in England. 

The theological drama of polemic has been generally dis- 
regarded in this study, for it was directed to different purposes. 
It adopted many of the devices of the old morality and is often 
classed as a morality because of its personification of abstractions 
and its allegorical plots. Just as the morality elements were 
sometimes found in miracle plays, so the elements of the theo- 
logical drama impinged on some of the Biblical plays, but where 
Biblical story entered prominently into a play I have considered 
the play here. 




The use of the drama in the grammar schools of the 
sixteenth century as an effective method for teaching 
Latin as a living language has been recorded in our his- 
tories of education. Since it was the language of church and 
diplomacy and the language of learning, it was essential that all 
who were to be considered educated should speak as well as read 
and write Latin, and to this end the dialogue and the drama 
were particularly useful. During the Middle Ages the classical 
dramatists were largely forgotten, but as Chambers says: 

The marked exception is Terence who, as Dr Ward puts it, led 
'a charmed life in the darkest ages of learning.' This he owed, 
doubtiess, to his unrivalled gift of packing up the most impeccable 
sentiments in the neatest of phrases. His vogue as a school author 
was early and enduring, and the whole of mediae valism, a few of the 
stricter moralists alone dissenting, hailed him as a master of the 
wisdom of life. 1 

It is not to be wondered at, then, that Terence was the first of 
the classical dramatists to be printed on the continent (in 1470 
at Strasbourg), the first to be printed in England (in 1495-7 by 
Pynson), and the first to find a translator in England. Indeed, 
Lathrop calls the Andria, published probably by John Rastell 
in 1520 under the title Terens in englysh, 'the only complete 
poetical or imaginative work' translated in the period between 
1 5 17 and 1557, and he notes that it was apparently arranged 
for schoolboys to act. 2 

The popularity of Terence was, however, largely attributable 
to the authority he exercised as a model of diction. The concern 
of those who were fearful of the revival of paganism and the 
degradation of morals through the rebirth of the old classical 

1 E. K. Chambers, The Mediaeval Stage (Oxford, 1903), vol. 11, p. 207. 

1 J. E. Sandys, A History of Classical Scholarship (Cambridge, 1908), vol. u, 
p. 103 ; Short-Title Catalogue, no. 23885 ; H. B. Lathrop, Translations from the Classics 
into English (Madison, 1933), p. 31. W. W. Greg dates the play 'about 1530'. 

10 145 cdp 


literature was augmented by the swift rise of the drama acted 
on the stage. The search for manuscripts on the part of the 
new humanists was resulting in the gradual restoration of the 
European heritage of Latin and Greek drama. Among the 
academies to foster the new learning, the Roman Academy, 
with Julius Pomponius Laetus at its head, gained pre-eminence 
in reviving the presentation of plays as one of its important 
activities. Just how early it took up the acting of plays is not 
known, but before 1468, when the academy was suppressed by 
Pope Paul II * on the ground of its political aims and pagan 
spirit'. It was revived in 15 71 under Sixtus II, and under the 
patronage of the two cardinals Riario, whom he appointed 
successively, the presentation of plays attained new grandeur. 1 
It is not my purpose here to recapitulate the often told story of 
the revival of classical drama, but it is essential to remember 
that the drama became one of the great preoccupations of the 
humanists. The rediscovery of Vitruvius established a basis for 
reviving the arts of the theatre. Princes of the church as well as 
princes of the state delighted in the revivals which the research 
of scholars and artists made possible. 

With the influx of classical plays and new secular plays into 
the schools, the schoolmasters became increasingly concerned 
about the manners and morals as well as the pagan theogony to 
which the boys in their charge were being exposed. Even 
Terence did not escape censure. And they undertook to do 
something to offset the danger. Thomas Becon most clearly, it 
seems to me, expressed the spirit of their approach when he 
later wrote that 'to teach them nothing but the doctrine of 
heathen and prophane writers is not to defye, but to destroy, 
not to correct, but to corrupt, the youthe of the Christians \ 
Heathen writers, he said, should be taught ' not that they should 
be mates with Gods word, but rather handmaids unto it, and 
serve to set forth the honour and glory thereof'. 2 It was in this 
spirit of making drama serve the purposes of Christian education 

1 I reviewed these revivals in Scenes and Machines on the English Stage during the 
Renaissance (Cambridge, 1923), pp. 10-16. 

% Thomas Becon, A New Catechism in Works of Thomas Becon, Parker Society, 
vol. xiii (Cambridge, 1844), p. 382. 



that these schoolmasters and their followers undertook to create 
a Christian drama. 

The classical drama, when it was accepted as handmaid to 
the new divine drama, served to offer form for new content. 
The desire to return to the Bible as the fount of all truth which 
characterized the whole movement determined the story 
material. There was, however, no attempt to fashion plays after 
the Hebrew model as exemplified in the Book of Job, but 
rather unquestioning acceptance of Latin and Greek models 
and classical theory. The first distinguishing characteristic 
which they seem to have noted was that of dramatic genre, 
and they accordingly wrote tragedies and comedies and tragi- 
comedies. Horace and the plays of Plautus and Terence gave 
them authority for act and scene division of their plays. They 
labelled their dramatis personae with generic names according 
to classical precedent whenever possible. They introduced 
prologues and epilogues and sometimes a formal 'argument' 
into their plays. With the devices used in classical drama they 
experimented without uniform success : the chorus in tragedy, 
the description of a character followed by something equivalent 
to the pointing finger and a ' there he comes ' identification, 1 the 
rehearsal of actions taking place off-stage, the summons of a 
character from indoors to come out in the open to speak, the 
liaison of the scenes, the eavesdropping of one character on 
the conversation of others, the soliloquy and the aside, the 
announcement of a character that he is departing, the recognition 
scene which resolves the action. Of course not all plays show 
all these devices, but in general when they occur they appear to 
indicate that the handmaid of classical precedent is serving to 
set forth God's word acceptably. 

The development of Christian drama to offset the evils 
incident to the spread of the * heathen* drama was necessarily 
the work of the humanist scholars, for they were the ones who 

1 W. W. Greg in editing Respublica (Early English Text Society, 1952), ccvi, 
xi-xii, argues for Udall's authorship largely on the basis of the use of these devices 
as they are used in Ralph Roister Doister. He notes particularly the lupus injabula. 
M. P. Tilley, Proverbs in TLngland in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (Ann 
Arbor, 1950), W. 607, quotes Elyot's 1538 definition: *a proverbe, when he 
cometh, which is spoken of.* 

147 10-2 


had both the knowledge of the ancient languages and the 
familiarity with classical dramatic techniques. The history of 
this development was traced by C. H. Herford, and his account 
has been the basis of practically all accounts in English. It still 
has unquestioned authority in many matters, but much new 
material has come to light since the eighteen-eighties to sup- 
plement and correct his findings, and his conclusions, therefore, 
need to be re-examined. According to Herford, the effort of 
Hrostvitha, the Nun of Gandersheim, ' to create an immaculate 
Terence out of Biblical and legendary history, was far too 
congenial to the religious Humanism of Germany to be wholly 
neglected; and her newly discovered writings, edited in 1501 
by the discoverer Conrad Celtes, soon found a disciple at one 
of the centres of religious Humanism, the young university of 
Wittenberg ', and he notes the Dorothea of Chilianus which was 
produced there in 1 5 07. Yet it is to Reuchlin that he would give 
the credit for making a new Latin drama possible, and he con- 
tinues his account with the statement which has been the basis 
for most of the misunderstanding of the history of the Biblical 
drama : 

It was in the north, in Holland, still as ever to the forefront of 
Teutonic civilization, that the work of Reuchlin was first worthily 
taken up and directed into a fruitful channel. His mantle fell 
directly upon a man of great eminence, . . . George Macropedius, 
master of Utrecht school. 

With Macropedius Herford would associate the names of 
William Gnapheus (William de Voider, generally known as 
Fullonius) of The Hague and Cornelius Crocus of Amsterdam, 
saying of the three men that they ' appear to have arrived 
independently at the same solution for a practical problem 
which as schoolmasters they all had to meet: how, namely, to 
steep a boy's mind in the admirable colloquial Latin of Terence 
and Plautus without introducing him prematurely to a world 
of lenones and meretrices. All three found the solution in what 
may be generally called the Biblical drama, or, as the strange 
phrase went, the co media sacra\ To the plays of this school 
Herford applies the name of the 'Christian Terence'. Later he 
chronicles the advent of a 'Christian Seneca', initiated by 



George Buchanan at Bordeaux with his Jephthes, which he calls 
' the earliest tragedy composed north of the Alps in decidedly 
Senecan form'. 1 

E. K. Chambers recorded the movement in such a way as to 
lead to further misunderstanding, for, in writing of the develop- 
ment of the interlude in the time of Henry VIII, he noted the 
effect of a fresh wave of humanist influence : 

This came from the wing of the movement which had occupied 
itself, not only with erudition, but also with the spiritual stirrings 

that issued in the Reformation The Lutheran reformers were 

humanists as well as theologians, and it was natural to them to shape 
a literary weapon to their own purposes, rather than to cast it aside 
as unfit for furbishing. About 1530 a new school of neo-Latin 
drama arose in Holland, which stood in much closer relations to 
mediaevalism than that which had its origin in Italy. It aimed at 
applying the structure and the style of Terence to an edifying subject- 
matter drawn from the tradition of the religious drama. 

He then noted the plays of Gnapheus and Macropedius as of 
the 'Christian Terence', and the beginnings of a 'Christian 
Seneca' with the plays of Buchanan. He did say that 'The 
movement began uncontroversially, but developed Protestant 
tendencies'. 2 

The result of Herford's acount and Chambers's modification 
of it has been that it has been popularly believed that the 
Biblical drama of the sixteenth century was inaugurated in the 
Netherlands as a by-product of the Reformation; that the 
Christian Terence originated by these Dutch schoolmasters was 
followed by a Christian Seneca initiated by George Buchanan 
at Bordeaux; the plays used 'edifying subject-matter drawn 
from the tradition of the religious drama ', and the Bible plays 
produced in England from time to time were in fact neo- 
miracles, as Chambers regularly classifies them. 

This view of the Christian drama as a recrudescence of an 
outworn type seems to me to ignore the existence of a whole new 
movement toward establishing a Christian literature and to treat 
drama as though it existed in isolation. Certain assumptions as 

1 C. H. Herford, Studies in the Literary Relations of England and Germany in the 
Sixteenth Century (Cambridge, 1886), pp. 79-80, 84-6, and 98. 

2 Chambers, Med. Stage, vol. 11, pp. 216-17. 



to its origin and development need also to be reconsidered. 
First, the three Dutch schoolmasters were not the first to 
publish Biblical dramas. Second, this drama was not a product 
of the Reformation, though the men who were its originators 
and promoters had a reforming spirit. Both in its initial stages 
and in its later development it was written by Catholics and 
Protestants with a common aim, and though it was later used 
for theological controversy, it continued to show the effects of 
its being a rival of the secular drama. Third, the Biblical drama 
did not come into existence as a Christian Terence succeeded 
by a Christian Seneca introduced by Buchanan, for the classical 
genres were recognized from the beginning, and Buchanan 
himself accepted Euripides as his model. Fourth, it did not 
draw its subject-matter 'from the tradition of the religious 
drama' but from the Bible, often reinforced by the works of 
Josephus. In its development saints' lives were naturally a 
corollary source, but for obvious reasons they did not contribute 
much to the English drama of this period. It is the facts that 
lead to these conclusions that I purpose to review briefly. 

The idea of a Christian drama came to many different people 
in widely scattered places, as Herford recognizes, though he 
insists that this innovation of the Dutch schoolmasters was 
'nevertheless essentially a new departure'. 1 One instance 
suffices in itself, however, to challenge his account and to offer 
proof, it seems to me, for the conclusions arrived at here. It was 
in 1508 that Francisco Conti, generally known as Quintianus 
Stoa, an Italian by birth and a Catholic, published in Milan a 
Latin tragedy on Christ's death to which he pedantically gave 
the Greek title Theoandrothanatos. In 15 14 a second tragedy 
Theocrisis (this on the Last Judgment) was included in a volume 
of his Christiana Opera published in Paris. Lebegue calls these 
the first modern pieces published in France to be named trage- 
dies and Stoa the first imitator of Seneca. That Stoa was writing 
his Christian works to oppose the profane literature which was 
absorbing current interest even in the Vatican is made evident in 
his letter to Spolete published in his Christiana Opera. The letter 
cited the example set by Prudentius, Sedulius, Juvencus, and 

1 Herford, p. 89 n. 


Proba Falconia, and certainly, as Lebegue says, here ' Stoa revele 
son dessein d'obtenir la gloire en creant un theatre chretienne, 
comme Juvencus et ses pareils ont jadis cr£e une poesie epique 
chretienne'. Whether the plays were read, recited, or acted has 
been the subject of discussion among authorities without final 
decision, but that Stoa hoped that they would be acted and that 
he expected them to be useful in the instruction of youth seems 
clear. 1 An Italian Catholic writing Christian tragedy long before 
Buchanan and before the plays of the Netherlands group were 
published offers sufficient evidence to disprove the popular 
idea of the Christian Terence and the Christian Seneca. There 
was a definite recognition of genre, for Stoa called his plays 
tragedies. Not Hrostvitha, but Prudentius, Sedulius, and 
Juvencus had given him precedents if not models. And 
Savonarola in Florence had a decade earlier conceived the idea 
of turning the forms used in the heathen works to Christian 
uses. The first divine plays of the Dutch group mentioned by 
Herford were not published until much later: the Acolastus of 
Gnapheus in 1 5 29 ; the Asotus of Macropedius in 1 5 3 7, though it 
may have been written much earlier ; z the Joseph of Crocus in 1 5 3 6 . 
The list of original neo-Latin plays published on the conti- 
nent before 1650, compiled by Leicester Bradner, 3 makes 
apparent at once the popularity of Bible plays during the six- 
teenth century. A good sampling may be had by examining the 
two great collections published at Basel. 4 The first of these 

1 The facts concerning Stoa are summarized by Raymond Lebegue, L.<z 
Tragidie Keligieuse en France (Paris, 1929), pp. 129-42. 

1 Herford thought it was written about 15 10 (p. 153 marginal n.); Lebegue 
would date it about 1507 (p. 160), but it was not published until eight years after 

3 Leicester Bradner printed a list of authors and dates in 'A Check-List of 
Original Neo-Latin Dramas by Continental Writers before 1650', P.M.L.A., 
lviii (1943), 621-33. Conti was there identified by his pseudonym as a French 
writer rather than an Italian. In 1957 Bradner published a more complete 'List 
of Neo-Latin Plays Printed before 1650' in Studies in the Renaissance, iv, 55-70. 
Conti is there listed under his Latin name with no nationality indicated. See also 
Alfred Harbage, 'A Census of Anglo-Latin Plays', P.M.L.A. liii (1938), 624-8. 

4 Lebegue lists the contents of the two collections, pp. xvii-xviii. Craig 
(pp. 363-77) notes these volumes, but follows Herford and Chambers in saying 
that the 'model of these biblical dramas was usually Terentian and that the word 
"comedy" is very loosely used, apparendy referring to Terentian technique'. 
This statement is not in accord with the record, for these volumes do not use the 
word comedy loosely. 



collected by the printer Brylinger in 1541 as Comoediae ac 
Tragoediae aliquot ex Novo et Vetere Testamento Desumptae was 
prefaced by an address of the printer to the reader which praised 
the new comedies and tragedies as worthy to find a place in the 
public theatres, in Christian schools, and in the libraries of the 
great, not only because of the purity of their language, but also 
because of their sacred argument. They would offer, the 
printer said, an opportunity for innocent boys to imbibe the 
rudiments of the Latin language by exercising themselves, not 
in profane and base matters, but in sacred and divine writings. 

Among the ten plays contained in the Brylinger volume were 
several that were to be famous : Acolastus, the most influential 
of the prodigal-son dramas, by Gnapheus; Pammachius, 'the 
Protestant version of the Antichrist ', by Naogeorgus (Thomas 
Kirchmeyer); Christus Xilonicus by Bartholomaeus (Nicholas 
Bartelemy); Susanna by Xystus Betuleius (Sixt Birck); and 
Joseph by Cornelius Crocus. Pammachius, first published in 
1538, was dedicated to Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of 
Canterbury. Crocus is said to have received orders at the hands 
of Bishop John Fisher and is presumed to have been in England 
at some time. Certain of the plays were well known in England 
as we shall see, and it is probable that the whole volume was 
familiar to many there. Each play was identified as comoedia, 
tragoedia, comoedia tragica, or historia. And it should be noted 
that along with the Protestant Naogeorgus and Betuleius, the 
Catholic Macropedius, Crocus, and Bartholomaeus were among 
the contributors, as well as Gnapheus, whom Herford calls 
a Crypto-Protestant, one who finally renounced his Catholicism. 

The plays of Stoa were not included in this collection, and 
Lebegue suggests that it may have been for this reason that 
another printer in Basel, Oporinus, inserted the Theoandrotha- 
natos in the volume of Christianae Poeseos Opuscula, where it was 
the only drama to be included. In 1547 Oporinus published a 
still more inclusive collection of divine plays than that of Bry- 
linger, a two-volume work, Dramata Sacra, Comoediae at que 
Tragoediae aliquot e Vetere Testamento Desumptae. Sixteen plays 
were to be found in this work, but neither of Stoa's was there, 
though the Susanna of Betuleius and the Joseph of Crocus were 



again printed. Of possible interest in this study of English 
drama were certain others : Eva, Judith, and Sapientia Solomonis 
by Betuleius, Hamanus by Naogeorgus, and Heli by Hieronymus 
Ziegler (one of the five he contributed). Oporinus is known 
as the friend of Bale and Foxe and the publisher of many works 
important to the Reformation, but Catholic and Protestant 
authors were alike represented. Also it must again be pointed 
out that the genre of each play was indicated. 

As I have said, George Buchanan has been given undeserved 
credit for having originated the ' Christian Seneca', but if he was 
not the first to write Biblical tragedy in classical form, he was 
probably the most famous. Educated at St Andrews in his 
native Scotland and at the University of Paris, he became a 
dramatist while he was teaching in the College de Guyenne at 
Bordeaux. The founder of the college had prescribed certain 
exercises to enable the scholars to compose and speak Latin, 
plays being regarded as necessary parts of these exercises. In 
fulfilment of this requirement, Buchanan wrote two Biblical 
tragedies, Jephthes, sive Votum and Baptistes sive Calumnia, and 
translated the Medea and the Alcestis of Euripides for the boys 
to produce. One of the pupils was Michael Montaigne who 
later wrote in his essay on education: 

Mettray-je en compte cette faculte de mon enfance: une asseur- 
ance de visage, et soupplesse de voix et de gest, a m'appliquer aux 
rolles que j'entreprenois? Car avent l'aage, 

Alter ab undecimo turn me vix ceperat annus, 
j'ai soustenu les premieres personnages es tragedies latines de 
Buchanan, de Guerente et de Muret, qui se representairent en nostre 
college de Guienne avec dignite. En cela Andreas Goveanus, nostre 
principal, come en toutes autres parties de sa charge, fut sans 
comparison le plus grand principal de France; et m'en tenoit-on 
maistre ouvrier. 1 

The four plays were certainly written before Buchanan left 
Bordeaux in 1544. According to his autobiography the Bap- 
tistes was the first to be written. Then followed the Medea trans- 
lation, and afterwards the Jephthes and the Alcestis, with which 

1 Quoted from Essais, vol. i, p. xxvi, by H. de la Ville de Mirmont, 'Buchanan 
a Bordeaux' in George Buchanan: A Memorial i5o6-igo6, ed. D. A. Millar 
(St Andrews and London, 1907), p. 38. 



he took greater pains in view of the prospects for their wider 
audience. The Jephthes was first published in Paris in 1554, and 
the list of editions and translations which followed attests its 
wide and long-continued importance. The Baptistes was not 
published until 1 5 77, when its dedication to the young King 
James, then the author's pupil, explained his purpose in having 
thus dramatized the Bible story, ' adolescentes a vulgari 
fabularum scenicarum consuetudine ad imitationem antiquitatis 
provocet: & ad pietatis studium'. Two editions were published 
in London, in 1577 and 1578, and one in Edinburgh in 1578, 
but it did not have the wide publication of the Jephthes. 1 
However, it is significant that in an edition of Buchanan's 
poetical works in 1597 all four tragedies were published, the 
two Biblical tragedies labelled Tragoediae Sacrae, the translations 
from Euripides Tragoediae Externae, thus placing the divine and 
the secular dramas in opposition. 

In making the translations from Euripides, Buchanan seems 
to have desired to imitate and to rival Erasmus, who translated 
the Iphigenia and the Hecuba, and Lebegue notes that in Jephthes 
he imitates these particular plays. In each of the two Bible plays 
there is a long informative prologue, that mjephthesbeing spoken 
by an angel, but there is no act and scene division. A chorus 
participates in the dialogue and also offers lyrical comment 
upon the action. In each play a messenger is used to relate the 
action, most of which takes place off-stage, but there is in his 
account no realistic description of horrors in the Senecan 
fashion. Because Buchanan has generally been considered the 
initiator of the Senecan drama, it is necessary to stress the fact 
that he translated Euripides and used Euripides as his model. 
It will be remembered too that when all four plays were pub- 
lished in 1 597 the tragoediae externae juxtaposed to the tragoediae 
sacrae were those of Euripides. It was Euripides, not Seneca, 
whom Ascham later used as a touchstone by which to evaluate 

The sub-titles plays must also be recognized as important in 
any consideration of the two divine plays. When Buchanan 

1 S.T.C. nos. 3969-71, where tH Edinburgh copy is listed as an issue rather 
than a new edition, Lebegue, p. xviii. 



was called before the Inquisition in Lisbon to answer charges 
of heresy, charges which were not unconnected with his attacks 
on the Franciscans, he testified in regard to the Baptistes: 

I used to disagree with the English [particularly in recognizing 
the King as head of the church]. Other issues on which we disagreed 
were purgatory, free-will, the Pope's authority, vows and the Church. 
. . . Accordingly, as soon as possible when I escaped thence, I re- 
corded my opinion of the English in that tragedy which deals with 
John the Baptist, wherein, so far as the likeness of the material 
would permit, I represented the death and accusation of Thomas 
More and set before the eyes an image of the tyranny of that time. 

Commentators have long recognized the Baptistes as a mirror of 
tyranny, for the dialogue as well as the plot exhibited a pre- 
ponderant theme. In 1642 it was translated, possibly by Milton, 
and published at the order of the House of Commons as 
Tyrannical-Government Anatomised or A Discourse concerning Evil- 
Councillors and was ' Presented to the Kings most Excellent 
Majesty by the Author*. However, the attempt to fit the story 
of Herod and Herodias and John to mirror Henry VIII, Anne 
Boleyn, and More has perplexed modern authorities when the 
other characters in the play are considered. 

At the time Buchanan was writing, a pamphlet war between 
the Protestant Bucer and the Catholic Latomus on the subject 
of vows was being waged. Buchanan testified before the 
Inquisition : 

On vows, I revealed my opinion by a passage in my tragedy on the 
vow of Jephthah. The sum of the discussion was as follows : — vows 
which were lawfully made should always be kept, and moreover 
many know that at Coimbra it was my custom gladly to read and 
always to commend the speech of Barthelemy Latomus on this 
subject against Bucer. 1 

Lebegue has shown that the arguments between the priest and 
Jephthes in the play bear a marked resemblance to the argu- 
ments between the current opponents. On the strength of his 
own testimony, then, Buchanan used Biblical history to mirror 
contemporary situations. It must be remembered that it was 

1 See James M. Atkin, The Trial of George Buchanan before the Lisbon Inquisition 
(Edinburgh and London, 1939). The quotations are from Atkin's translation, 
pp. 23 and 13 respectively. See also pp. 55-6. 



only when he returned to Scotland in 1561 that he formally- 
renounced Catholicism and joined the Church of Scotland. 

It was not until the plays of Cornelius Schonaeus were pub- 
lished in Cologne in 1592 that the Terentius Christianus of 
Hrostvitha was again used as a title for a collection of Biblical 
plays. Descent by pupilship can apparently be traced in Corne- 
lius Schonaeus, for he is said to have had his interest in poetry 
roused as a student under Cornelius Valerius (Wauters) who 
had been a pupil of Macropedius in Utrecht. During his school 
years Schonaeus composed certain elegies and epigrams, but it 
would seem that the fact of the existence of two societies for 
the promotion of the Latin drama at the time of his residence 
at Louvain was of primary importance for his future work. 
I have found no record of his contributions to these societies, 
however. After leaving the university Schonaeus held various 
positions as a private tutor until in 1575 he was made rector of 
the Haarlem school, and there he remained until 1610, the last 
Catholic rector of the institution. In writing school plays from 
Bible story he announced the same desires that had motivated 
the earlier schoolmasters. His Tobaeus, written in 1568, was 
published in 1 5 70 with a book of elegies, Nehemias in 1 5 69, 
Saul in 1 5 70, and these with plays on Naaman, Judith, and 
Joseph made up the 1 592 volume. In 1 599 a second part of the 
Christian Terence contained six additional plays. In 1603 a third 
part was published which contained a book of epigrams and 
the earlier printed elegies as well as the new plays, some of this 
matter non-Biblical. 1 The Christian Terence was used in many 
countries for many years as a text-book. Of its use in England 
I shall write later. 

I have tried to show that Catholic and Protestant authors, 
moved by a common impulse to offset the dangers of an 
exclusive classical education, turned to the Bible for more 
healthful fare for their pupils. It was the Jesuit schools, how- 
ever, that turned the Biblical drama and its corollary drama 

1 The fullest account is in the Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie, vol. xxxiv, 
pp. 731-2. R. B. Hepple started a discussion on ' Terentius Christianus: A School- 
Book of 330 Years Ago', in Notes and Queries, vol. clxix, pp. 273-4. Others 
added comment in later numbers, but the German work would have made their 
conjectures unnecessary. 



based on the lives of the saints to their special purpose and 
produced the greatest number of such dramas. 'From its 
foundation, in 1540, to its temporary suppression, in 1773', 
Henry Schnit2ler writes, ' the Order carried on a vast theatrical 
program. During nearly two and a half centuries, Jesuit 
priests and their students devoted a large part of their time and 
energy to work in every conceivable area related to the stage.' 
It was a propaganda theatre, and there was printed ' at the end 
of every synopsis and at the bottom of every program, the 
letters "O.A.M.D.G.", an abbreviation of the motto Omnia 
AdMajorem Dei Gloriam i.e. "All to the Greater Glory of God 'V 1 
The official programme for the Jesuit schools, their Ratio 
Studiorum, ultimately prescribed the conditions under which 
the drama was to be produced. Their tragedies and comedies 
were required to be written in Latin and were to be infrequent. 
The subject-matter must be sacred and pious. Nothing might 
be inserted between the acts which was not Latin and seemly. 
No women or women's dress might be introduced in the 
plays. 2 

The regulations seem to have been enforced without undue 
severity, and every form of theatrical entertainment, even ballet, 
was offered. Though some of the plays seem to have found 
their way into England in manuscript, I have seen no indica- 
tion that they were produced there, however much they may 
have done to create a spirit of emulation. The College of St Omers 
should, nevertheless, be specially noted, for W. H. McCabe has 
demonstrated that ' The College was thoroughly British, though 
placed on the Continent', and 'it was host to a steady stream 
of travellers between England and the Continent, Protestants 
as well as Catholics, whom its theatre often entertained '.3 
Like the Jesuit theatre in general however, it attained greater 
importance in the seventeenth than in the sixteenth century. 

1 ' The Jesuit Contribution to the Theatre ', Educational Theatre Journal, vol. iv, 
pp. 283-92. 

2 Ernest Boysse, ~Le Thidtre des Jisuits (Paris, 1880), p. 18 and n. Professor 
Edna Purdie has given an account of its history on the continent in her article 
1 Jesuit Drama ' in the Oxford Companion to the Theatre (London, 195 1), pp. 415-22. 

3 'The Play-List of the English College of St Omers, 1592-1762', Revue de 
Litterature Comparee (1937), pp. 355-75. 'Notes on the St Omers College 
Theatre', Philological Quarterly (1938), xv, pp. 225-39. 




according to Lebegue, 1 The Abraham Sacrifiant of 

/\ Theodore de Beze was the first tragedy in France which 
JL \»was not a translation and, so far as our knowledge goes, 
it was the only one of the continental divine dramas composed 
in the vernacular which found its way to England. It is, 
therefore, the only one with which we are concerned. 2 

Beze's play was written and performed at Lausanne in 15 50 
and printed at Geneva in the same year. It was translated into 
English by Arthur Golding in 1575 and published in London 
in 1 5 77 with illustrations which cannot represent accurately a 
practicable stage setting. It would be expected to find an 
audience in England, where the writings of both Golding and 
Beze were familiar; yet there is no evidence for its ever having 
been given an English production. Its influence, however, 
demands that it be considered here in some detail. 

Golding was one of the great translators of the Tudor period. 
His later fame rests for the most part on his translations of 
Caesar and Ovid, and Lathrop judged his version of the 
Metamorphoses to stand out ' above all the verse translations of 
the period'. 3 In his own day, however, he was also known as 
the translator of the Psalms and of the works of contemporary 
Frenchmen, particularly of various works of Calvin. It was 
fitting, therefore, that he should also translate Beze's drama, 
for Beze was Calvin's successor at Geneva. 

1 For most of the facts here recorded I am indebted to Lebegue, pp. 293-318. 
A list of editions of the play before 1928 is given, pp. 507-13. I have used the 
Beze text and Golding's translation edited by Malcolm W. Wallace (Toronto, 
1906). A list of Golding's work is given, pp. xxxii-xxxvii. 

2 Probably the most prolific writer of Bible plays in the period was Hans 
Sachs, but I have found no evidence of their being brought to England. Joseph E. 
Gilbert, 'The German Dramatist of the Sixteenth Century and His Bible', 
P.M.L.A. vol. xxxrv (19 19), gives a good summary of the German movement 
to substitute Biblical for secular plays. 

3 Lathrop, p. 126. See pp. 126-9, 168-72 for a full acount of his work. 



Beze had written poems characteristic of a young man's 
fancy before he was twenty and had published them in Paris 
in 1548 as Juvenilia. Later in that year he went secretly to 
Switzerland and in 1549 settled in Lausanne as professor of 
Greek at the academy there. He was, of course, to become head 
of Calvin's school at Geneva and one of the most influential 
and prominent of the post-Calvin Calvinists. According to 
Lebegue he took the opportunity offered by the request of the 
academy authorities at Lausanne for a play that students of the 
academy could perform to efface the memory of his Juvenilia by 
writing Abraham Sacrifiant. His conscience bothered him over his 
youthful folly, as he wrote in the preface to his play, for having 
always delighted in poetry, 'it greveth me right sore, that the 
little grace which God gave me in that behalfe, was imployed 
by me in such things, as the very remembrance of them irketh 
me now at the hart \ He was then working on the translation of 
the Psalms, wishing the good wits of Frenchmen could be 
exercised likewise in holy matters, rather 'to sing a song of 
God, then to counterfet a ballet of Petrarks, & to make 
amorous ditties, worthy to have the garlande of sonnetts, or 
to counterfet the furies of the auncient Poets, to blase abroad 
the glory of this world, or to consecrate this man or that woman 
to immortalitie\ Abraham, Moses, and David seemed to him 
those in whom God had shown forth his greatest wonders. 

Beze's choice for his drama was, consequently, the story of 
Abraham and Isaac as told in the twenty-second chapter of 
Genesis. It is possible that he drew upon ~Le Mistere du Viel 
Testament and the Isaaci Immolatio of the Catholic Ziegler (in the 
Oporinus collection), but he himself carefully indicated his great 
debts. On the title-page of the 1550 edition with references 
to the fifteenth chapter of Genesis and the fourth of Romans 
there stood the quotation ' Abraham a creu a Dieu, & il luy a esti 
reputS a justice*. These are the chapters which treat of God's 
promise to Abraham and its fulfilment, chapters fundamental 
to the Calvinist doctrine that we are justified by faith rather than 
works. This is the theme of the play, and the story of Abraham 
and Isaac exemplified its truth. The twenty-second chapter of 
Genesis was, therefore, printed as the 'argument' of the play 

1 59 


after the classical fashion. Beze's own account gives his reasons 
for the variations and additions to the Bible story to be found 
in the play : * I have altered some small circumstances of the 
storie, to apply myselfe to the companye. Moreover I have 
followed the ground as neare the text as I could, according to 
such conjectures as I thought most convenient for the matter 
and persons.' 

Beze was writing a school play to be produced for the 
young scholars in their native language, and he says he refused 
to use technical terms like strophe and antistrophe, as obsolete and 
serving only 'to amase simple folke' (so Golding renders his 
words). In keeping with this determination he divided his play 
by pawses and identified the company of shepherds in his play as 
a troupe. He also called attention to the fact that he introduced 
a song without a chorus, presumably a reference to the morning 
hymn of praise sung by Abraham and Sara near the beginning 
of the play, since a song by the troupe is sung in each of the 
first two parts of the play. In other ways too Beze departed 
from the classical formula generally observed in the academic 
drama. The pauses divide the play into three parts, the action 
of the first part taking place outside Abraham's house, that of 
the second at the base of the mountain, that of the third on the 
summit of the mountain where the sacrifice was to be performed. 
An unusual interpolation of an interior scene comes in the 
third part when we are given a glimpse of Sara at home worrying 
over her husband and child. Unity of time is disregarded also, 
for three days elapse between the first and second parts of the 
play. As to why he called it a tragedy he explains: 

it is partly tragical and partly comicall : & therefore I have separated 
the prologue, & divided the whole into pawses, after the maner of 
actes in comedies, howbeit without binding of my selfe thereto. 
And because it holdeth more of the one then of the other: I thought 
best to name it a tragedie. 

It would seem much simpler to have called it a tragi-comedy. 1 

1 F. H. Ristine, Unglish Tragicomedy (Columbia Studies in English, New York, 
1 910), discusses Grimald's definition (p. 23) and Gascoigne's (pp. 63-6), but does 
not mention Beze's play as translated by Golding. 



The prologue begins with the usual greeting and the request 
for silence, but an extra admonitory note is introduced : 

Would God we might eache weeke through all the yeare 
See such resort in Churches as is here. 

The word to the imaginary traveller is, however, a more 
interesting departure from the usual, recalling as it does Shake- 
speare's use of the same device in Henry V: 

You thinke your selves perchaunce to be in place, 
Where as you be not, now as standes the case. 
For Lausan is not here, it is far hence. 
But yit when neede requires, I will dispence 
With all of you, that hence within an hower 
Eche one may safely be within his bowre. 

Shakespeare comes to mind also as Satan speaks a series of 
soliloquies in the play after the manner of Richard III and Iago 
when they plot their villainy. 

Perhaps the most significant feature of Beze's play, after the 
fact that it is written in the vernacular, however, is the psycho- 
logical conflict that is given external reality (i) by introducing 
Satan ' in the habit of a Monke ' to argue against obedience to the 
Lord's command; (2) by adding Sara to the dramatis personae 
to take a mother's part against her husband; and (3) by having 
the troupe or company of shepherds ' divided in two partes'. 
Isaac's natural appeal to pity, emphasized by his thought of his 
mother's concern, is, I think, not quite the same thing as the 
conflict represented by these arguments; it touches rather the 
springs of pathos that have made many critics call the old 
miracle of Abraham and Isaac a tragedy. 

Abraham Sacrifiant was Beze's only play and Golding's too. 
Chambers has pointed out its significance in indicating some- 
thing of the Calvinist attitude toward drama in general. The fact 
that it was printed in Geneva and that in 1560 it was approved 
by the consistory for reprinting offers important evidence in 
the matter. 1 That its moving story has long continued to make 

1 E. K. Chambers, The Elizabethan Stage (Oxford, 1923), vol. 1, pp. 245-9. 
See also Lebegue, pp. 314-17; Kosta Loukovitch, La Tragedie Religieuse Classique 
en France (Paris, 1932), pp. 17-19 and 239. 

11 Iol cdp 


an appeal is apparent in the thirty-six editions listed by Lebegue 
between its first appearance and 1923. 1 It seems strange that 
apparently it never reached production in England, as indeed 
it seems strange that none but this of all the Biblical plays 
written in the vernacular of the various continental countries 
was produced or translated in England during this period, as 
far as we know. 

1 Pp. 507-13- 




The use of Biblical plays for the teaching of facility in 
translation is of subordinate interest in this study to their 
production as theatre, but that such use was proposed 
is a fact to be recorded. Actually the first of the continental 
plays of this kind to be printed in England for this purpose was 
the prodigal-son play Acolastus, originally published in Ant- 
werp in 1529 and now published in London in 1540 with an 
English translation intended to illustrate how translation should 
be taught. Written by the schoolmaster Gnaphaeus (Fullonius), 
it was translated by the schoolmaster John Palsgrave. 1 Palsgrave 
had been schoolmaster to the children of royal and noble 
persons, he was the friend of Erasmus and Thomas More, he 
held degrees from both universities, and he was chaplain to 
the King. He had written Lesclarcissement de la Langue Francoyse. 
In 1540 the King issued his proclamation commanding the 
use in English schools of the grammar generally known as 
Lily's grammar. Palsgrave seems to have decided to further 
the good work and published in that year his Ecphrasis Anglica 
in Comoediam Acolasti with a dedication to the King in which 
he explained: 

I wyshed, that unto this moch expedient reformation of your 
schole maisters unstayd libertie, which hytherto have taught such 
grammers, and of the same so dyvers and sondry sortes, as to every 
of theym semed best (and was to their fantasies mooste approved) 
myght thereto also folowe and succede one stedy and unyforme 
maner of interpretation of the latyn authors into our tonge, after 
that the latyn principles were by your graces youth ones surely 
conned and perceyved. 

1 P. L. Carver in his edition of The Comedy of Acolastus for the Early English 
Text Society (Original Series, vol. 202, London, 1937) has given an account of 
Palsgrave's life, the facts concerning his relation to Mary, the younger sister of 
Henry VIII, and concerning his opposition to Wolsey being of special interest. 
Quotations are from Carver's edition. For a discussion of the date of the King's 
proclamation see pp. 183-4. 




He hoped to establish thus a uniform method by which English 
youth might be able to write and speak both idiomatic Latin 
and idiomatic English, turning Latin expressions into their 
equivalent as well as their literal English expressions. He chose 
Acolastus to exhibit his method, he said, because he considered 
it 'to be a very curiouse and artificiall compacted nosegay, 
gathered out of the moche excellent and odoriferouse swete 
smellynge gardeynes of the moste pure latyne auctors', and 
also because he hoped through making English writers envious 
of such good Latin composition to stir them to emulation. 

Palsgrave's method was to indicate every possible variant 
translation for each phrase. He included and expanded Gnap- 
heus's notation of the metres used. In spite of all the scholarly 
apparatus thus provided, there is no record of the King's having 
commanded uniformity in the use of Palsgrave's method, and 
only the one edition of the work was needed. I shall describe 
the play as it was acted a little later. 1 

A different fate met the work of another schoolmaster, 
however, for the Terentius Christianus of Schonaeus, which was 
first printed in England in 1 5 9 5 , was reprinted frequently in the 
seventeenth century. Brinsley in his Ludus Uterarius in 161 2 
recommended it as an alternative to Terence, following the 
study of Corderius's dialogues. 2 Foster Watson calls it the most 
famous collection of foreign plays used in English schools. 3 
However, the English edition contained only Tobaeus and 
Juditha from the first edition and Pseudostratiotes, which had 
been newly printed separately. The English edition contained 
an address to the reader which is of interest for its citing of 
Lily's authority and for its comment concerning the use of 
Bible story in plays, as well as for its inclusion of the usual 
reasons for creating a Christian drama: 

For boys (as the grammarian Lily, not unknown in England, said), 
only pure things are suitable. In Terence there is pure language, 
but the subject-matter for the most part is not pure, nor is that 
strange. What can you expect from a poor ethnic, ignorant of the 
true God, the source of true purity? Therefore Schonaeus, a very 

1 The English prodigal-son plays are described later in ch. vi. * P. 221. 

3 Foster Watson, The English Grammar Schools to 1660 (Cambridge, 1908), 
p. 322. 



learned man, did something worth while : for the benefit of Christian 
boys he has clothed more chaste subject-matter in the pure language 
of Terence, in order that along with elegance of style boys may 
imbibe holiness and uprightness of character. 

As his reason for selecting plays from the Apocrypha, the 
English editor said he chose them, not because they were truer 
or more sacred than others, but because they seemed more suit- 
able for plays, a learned theologian [Luther] having considered 
them rather poems than histories. He added significantly: 

There is an old familiar proverb, It is not good to play with sacred 
things. And what is holier and more sacred than the divinely inspired 
canonical scriptures ? Therefore to add, to subtract, to omit anything 
from them, to insert speeches and characters, as poetic license 
permits, becomes a scruple in the eyes of some whom we do not 
want to offend needlessly. 1 

Schonaeus, like Gnapheus and the other schoolmasters, 
prepared his plays as exercises for his scholars, patterning them 
after classical authority with five acts and many scenes, pro- 
logue, argument, and epilogue. The prologues stress the fact 
that they were taken from the Bible, making what is taught in 
the pulpit more moving when it is presented on the stage. The 
epilogues regularly explain the moral or the mystical signifi- 
cance of the story and seek to apply it to the present time. 

A manuscript in the National Library of Wales discovered 
by Gwen Jones offers evidence as to how these divine plays 
were used in British schools, for the manuscript includes ' Cato 
construed by Corderius' together with the Latin text oijuditha 
Constantia with the not very facile translation into English of 
the prologue, the argument, and a section of the first scene of 
the first act. z Among the Bodleian manuscripts there are four 
volumes described as ' Translations into English prose of the 
plays written for the use of the scholars of the school at Haarlem 
by the master Cornelius Schonaeus'. The first two volumes 
contain Schonaeus's Naaman, Tobit, Nehemiah, Saul, Joseph, and 
Judith. 3 (It will be noticed that Schonaeus did not confine 

1 The translation was made by Frederick M. Carey, Professor of Classics in 
the University of California, Los Angeles. 

2 Modern Language Notes (1917), vol. xxxn, pp. 1-6. 

3 Bodleian MS S. Rawlinson, nos. 1388-91. 



himself to the apocryphal books of the Bible in searching for 
play material.) The third volume is made up of the four 
Buchanan plays, and the fourth has six plays of Plautus with a 
fragment of another on the last leaf. Why these plays were 
translated or by whom must be a matter for conjecture, but 
they were clearly not adapted for production in England since 
the prologues continue to refer to • our Master Schonaeus ' as 
they carry the good wishes of ' the whole Quire of boyes ' to 
the 'Honour'd Srs. and most courteous Cittizens' in the 
audience. To find Schonaeus and Buchanan and Plautus linked 
together as obviously proper material for practice in translation 
is interesting. Submitting the plays for translation would 
certainly create in schoolboys little enthusiasm, no matter how 
excellent the moral instruction, but the plays of Gnapheus and 
Schonaeus as well as those of Plautus were intended by their 
authors for production. 

English schoolboys, like those on the continent, were acting 
plays in the sixteenth century, as well as being confronted by 
them as textbooks. Just how early these productions began 
remains uncertain, but William Lily, the first headmaster of 
Saint Paul's grammar school as it was re-established by Dean 
Colet, came to his duties after a sojourn in Rome, where he 
had studied under Pomponius Laetus. Whether he carried home 
to his school the enthusiasm of his Roman teacher for the acted 
drama is not known, but under the mastership of his son-in-law 
John Ritwise, who succeeded him, the boys of the school acted 
before both Henry VIII and Cardinal Wolsey as early as 1527 
and 1528. Eton records offer evidence of productions in 1 5 2 5 . * 
Exactly a hundred years later, in 1625, Ben Jonson made his 
Censure, one of the gossips in The Staple of News, complain of 
the schoolmasters of England : 

They make all their scholars playboys ! Is't not a fine sight, to see 
all our children made interluders ? Do we pay our money for this ? 
We send them to learn their grammar and their Terence, and they 
learn their playbooks l a 

1 Chambers, Med. Stage, vol. n, pp. 196, and Eliz- Stage, vol. 11, pp. 11 and 
12 n. 

2 Act in, so ii. 



The records of the schoolboys' offerings are disappointing, 
for they rarely give the titles of plays produced or any indication 
of their identity. Our scattered knowledge does, however, 
offer grounds for concluding that the movement to dramatize 
Bible stories for schoolboy production had reached England. 
The most specific account that has been preserved is that of John 
Bale, who in 1552 visited the school conducted by Ralph Rad- 
cliffe at Hitchin in Hertfordshire. There a building of the old 
Carmelite monastery after its dissolution in 1538 had been 
turned into a school, and Bale wrote that what had pleased him 
most about it was the beautiful large theatre in the lower part 
of the house. The scholars could there see and hear plays ' simul 
jocunda & honesta', and in performing them they could learn 
to speak clearly and eloquently with assurance. He listed ten 
of their plays, six of the ten being built on the Bible stories of 
Jonah, Lazarus and the rich man, Judith, Job, Susanna, and 
the destruction of Jerusalem. Bale's habit of turning all titles 
into Latin leads to uncertainty, but at least some of the plays he 
listed were evidently written in Latin since he gives the Latin 
first lines of two. Some of the Hitchin plays, were, however, 
produced before the townspeople, and it is unlikely that they 
suffered Latin gladly. Both Herford and Chambers accepted the 
loss of these plays as apparently final, but in 1937 W. R. Hughes 
wrote in Blackwood's Magazine that Reginald Hine, the historian 
of Hitchin, had discovered three of them in manuscript in the 
Welsh library of Lord Harlech, 1 and some day we may learn 
more about them, for they are now in the National Library of 

Shrewsbury School was also producing plays, and the Ordi- 
nances formulated by its headmaster, Thomas Ashton, pre- 
scribed that the highest form was to declaim and play one act 
of a comedy once a week. Thomas Ashton had been summoned 
to Shrewsbury in 1 5 60 from St John's College, Cambridge, to 
produce The Passion of Christ in the Quarry where, according to 
the historians of the school, the performance of a ' mystery ' 
play had been an annual event. After producing the Passion of 

1 Chambers, Med. Stage, vol. n, p. 197 and n. 1; W. R. Hughes, 'They All 
Wrote Plays', Blackwood's, vol. en, pp. 70-84. According to the Dictionary of 
National Biography Radcliffe disputed with Sir John Cheke the pronunciation 
of Greek. 



Christ in 1560, Ashton was appointed headmaster in 1561. 
Under him Philip Sidney and Fulke Greville began their school- 
days. Under his direction the plays in the Quarry continued to 
be produced, and to them came great numbers of noblemen 
and others according to an early account. It is assumed by the 
historians of the school that the boys of the school were the 
actors in the plays, and they note that when Legge's Richard 
Tertius was performed at St John's College, Cambridge, in 
1579, ^ ve °f tne actors were from the Shrewsbury School. 
Thomas Ashton had been a fellow of St John's when the Absalon 
of Thomas Watson was performed, the play which Ascham felt 
worthy to be compared with the plays of Euripides. Though 
I doubt whether he was summoned to Shrewsbury to produce 
a 'mystery', he was certainly summoned to produce a Bible 
play. Thomas Churchyard calls Ashton 'a good and godly 
preacher', the plays produced in the Quarry were evidently 
religious plays, and he was their producer, perhaps also their 
author as the old account calls him. There the evidence ends, 
but Churchyard has given an account of the amphitheatre 'in 
goodly auncient guise' constructed in the Quarry which is of 
special interest: 1 

There is a ground, newe made Theator wise, 
Both deepe and hye, in goodly auncient guise : 
Where well may sit, ten thousand men at ease, 
And yet the one, the other not displease. 

A space belowe, to bayt both Bull and Beare, 
For Players too, great roume and place at will. 
And in the same, A Cocke pit wondrous feare, 
Besides where men, may wrastle in their fill. 
A ground most apt, and they that sits above, 
At once in vewe, all this may see for love: 
At Astons play, who had beheld this then, 
Might well have seene, there twentie thousand men. 

1 J. Basil Oldham, A History of Shrewsbury School 1552-1 592 (Oxford, 1952), 
pp. 5-7, 9-13. See also George W. Fisher, Annals of Shrewsbury School (London, 
1899), pp. 5, 17-20. Oldham asserts that Ashton was a member of St John's 
College, not Trinity, as Fisher said. The quotation found in part in these authori- 
ties is from The Worthiness of Wales (London, 1587), sigs. K v -L r . 



Whatever doubts we must feel as to the numbers of play-goers 
as computed by Churchyard, there can be little question of the 
widespread popularity of Ashton's plays. At the end of Pals- 
grave's translation of Acolastus it is stated that 'William 
Fullonius the maker of this presente Comedy, did set it forthe 
before the bourgeses of Hagen in Holand. Anno. M.D. XXIX ', 
and the plays of Schonaeus were clearly performed before a 
citizen audience. It is evident that both the Hitchin school of 
Ralph RadclifFe and the Shrewsbury school of Thomas Ashton 
were following the continental example in thus offering enter- 
tainment to their fellow citizens who were not of the academic 

How often the English schoolmasters drew their plays from 
the continent we cannot tell. Acolastus was performed in 
Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1 560-1, but Thomas Nashe was 
not born until 1 5 67, and the performance which he described 
in two different works was evidently put on by schoolboys. In 
The Unfortunate Traveller he has Jack Wilton report that the 
Duke of Saxony c was bidden to one of the chiefe schooles [of 
Wittenberg] to a Comedie handled by schollers ' : 

Acolastus , the prodigal child, was the name of it, which was so 
filthily acted, so leathernly set forth, as would have moved laughter 
in Heraclitus. One as if he had ben playning a clay floore, stampingly 
trode the stage so harde with his feete that I thought verily he had 
resolved to do the Carpenter that set it up some utter shame. 
Another flong his armes lyke cudgels at a peare tree, insomuch as 
it was mightily dreaded that he wold strike the candles that hung 
above their heades out of their socketts, and leave them all darke. 
Another did nothing but winke and make faces. There was a parasite, 
and he with clapping his handes and thripping his fingers seemed 
to dance an antike to and fro. The onely thing they did well, was the 
prodigall childs hunger, most of their schollers being hungerly kept; 
& surely you would have sayd they had bin brought up in the hogs 
academie to learne to eate acornes, if you had seene how sedulously 
they fell to them. 1 

1 The Works of Thomas Nashe , ed. R. B. McKerrow (London, 1904-9), vol. 11, 
p. 249, and vol rv, p. 274, where a note mentions a performance of A.colastus at 
Wittenberg in 1572. Such references as 'n'er a penny in his purse' seem to 
indicate an English version. 



Again in Summers Last Will and Testament Will Summer is 
made to decry the entertainment offered him, describing the 
prodigal child 'in his dublet and hose all greasy, his shirt 
hanging forth, and ne'r a penny in his purse, and talke what 
a fine thing it is to walke summerly, or sit whistling under a 
hedge and keepe hogges'. 1 

As to where and when Nashe may have seen a performance 
we have no information, but that the play was widely known 
there can be little doubt. The phrase-stuttering translation of 
the Palsgrave text certainly would not have offered the basis for 
a production, but the Brylinger volume of Bible plays in which 
it had been reprinted was apparently familiar to many, and 
later prodigal-son plays written in English bear the marks of 
its influence, though no other translations into English have 
come down to us. As a school play, therefore, it may not in- 
appropriately be described here as it appeared in the Brylinger 

Gnapheus in his prologue praises Terence and Plautus as the 
best of poets and patterns his comedy after theirs, indicating 
that there is a hidden meaning in the story, though the hidden 
meaning is not explored until the epilogue. The prologue closes 
with an appeal for applause as payment for the pleasure received 
from the play and introduces the argument, which simply 
rehearses the Bible story. The elder son is not among the 
dramatis personae, but a number of characters are added: 
a good counsellor for the father, a bad counsellor for the 
prodigal and — straight out of Latin comedy — two parasites, 
an ingenious and intriguing servant, a courtesan, a confidential 
maid, a procurer. The main characters are given symbolic 
names, the minor characters names from Terence and Plautus. 
It is of some interest that the wise counsellor is called Eubulus 
and the bad counsellor Philautus. 

The five acts are divided into scenes, the most fully realized 
scenes being those which exhibit the riotous living and the 
wanton adventures of Acolastus with the 'common woman' 
Lais. Perhaps these were the scenes that would induce the 
scholars to search more diligently for equivalent English idiom, 
1 Ibid. vol. in, p. 247. 



but it is difficult to see how Jess harm would come to them in 
this than in a Terentian comedy. 

Acolastus on his departure from home is presented with a 
Bible by his father, but Philautus induces him to discard it at 
once. Incidental references are to classical authors and classical 
precedents, and oaths are commonly sworn by Hercules or 
by the temple of Pollux. The epilogue brings the hidden mean- 
ing which the prologue foretold: that though a man sin, yet 
God, like a loving father, welcomes home again his repentant 
child. Christ himself spoke this parable to explain the mercy of 

The Sapientia Solomonis of Sixt Birck (Betuleius) was published 
in the second great collection of sacred plays, that of Oporinus. 
It had already been performed at Cambridge in 1 5 5 9-60 when 
it was offered by the boys of the Westminster School for the 
entertainment of Queen Elizabeth and her royal guest, Princess 
Cecilia of Sweden, on 17 January 1565-6. The manuscript of 
the play in the British Museum (now edited by Elizabeth Rogers 
Payne) 1 gives us our only exact knowledge of the text of a 
continental Biblical play as it was altered for an English pro- 
duction, and also something of the way in which it was set 
forth. Who wrote the adaptation for the Westminster perform- 
ance, or whether it was the same version that had been used 
at Cambridge is not known, but quite evidently the play had 
been made a little more ' jocunda' when it was presented to the 
royal visitors and the privy council. 

The list of ' expenses for the furniture and setting forthe ' of 
the play shows that the Office of the Revels contributed 
'apparel', and that Thomas Browne, the headmaster, was 
reimbursed by Dean Goodman for the fifty-two shillings and 
tenpence he had spent on it. The title of the play as well as the 
names of the houses were done in red and black ink. Colours 
and gold foil were needed ' in coloring the childrens faces, & in 
gylting the garlandes for the prologes'. A painter was paid for 
' Drawing the cytee & temple of Jerusalem, & for paynting 

1 Yale Studies in English (New Haven, 1938), vol. 89. Ed. from B.M. Add. 
MS. 20061 and collated with the original play. All quotations are from this 



towres'. But perhaps the most intriguing item is that which 
indicates that a real baby had a part in the production, for five 
shillings was paid to 'A woman that brawght hir childe to the 
stadge & there attended uppon itt'. 1 

These items of expense help us to get the picture of the stage 
which was set in the great room known as the College Hall, for 
the action of the play clearly takes place in a street scene. 
Characters are hailed as they approach, and they speak of with- 
drawing into the hall or the palace or the citadel. Even the 
judgment of the King between the two women quarrelling over 
the dead child and the living one is delivered in the street. The 
King goes to meet the Queen of Sheba in the street, and they 
sit together in the portico for their sweet discourses. The 
'houses' were evidently arranged about the street (probably 
in a blunted triangle after the manner prescribed by Serlio) with 
the city and temple painted on the scene which blocked the 
apex of the triangle. The houses were practicable, permitting 
exits and entrances, and the s house ' of the palace evidently had 
a portico large enough for regal splendour to be displayed. 2 

Birck's play covered the accounts of Solomon's reputation 
for wisdom, the dream, the judgment between the two mothers, 
his negotiations for the building of the temple, and his recep- 
tion of the Queen of Sheba. It was based upon the Vulgate 
and the Greek editions of Josephus, as the editor has proved. 
The adapter made much of the character of the non-Biblical fool 
Marcolphus, traditionally associated with Solomon, and he 
introduced three characters to speak — or sing — what Birck 
gave to a chorus : Sapientia, Justicia, and Pax. 

The play, called a tragi-comedy, as presented at Westminster 
School was set in contrast to the Miles Gloriosus of Plautus 
which had been presented the year before. The new prologue 
(in the Payne translation) stresses the contrast: 

It is not a comic poet that we bring this time, but a serious history, 
drawn from the sacred fount of truth. Blessed Solomon will see 

1 The expense account is inserted opposite p. 40. 

2 My interpretation of the stage setting differs from that of the editor (p. 43), 
for the ' houses ' seem to me clearly to have been practicable and built as I have 
described them from Serlio's instructions and pictures in my Scenes and Machines 
(Cambridge, 1923), pp. 34-5. 



presently another ruler greatly blessed by the same tokens and the 
same good omens and likewise administering justice and the law to 
the people whom God gave her to rule over. 

The classical pattern is kept: prologue, argument, five acts 
divided into scenes, the scenes marked by change of speakers 
and with the liaison of the scenes generally observed. The 
unity of place is inevitable with the street scene. The time is 
compressed, but more than one day is involved. Such familiar 
devices as ' there he comes ' and the announced withdrawal into 
a house, the concealed observers of what takes place on the 
stage, the recital of events happening off-stage, and the soliloquy 
are used. The personified characters appear instead of the 
chorus in scenes at the end of all acts except Act n. The two 
mothers are called meretrices, their language is Plautine, and I am 
afraid that they must be reckoned the most interesting of the 
characters to the modern reader. The Biblical characters, how- 
ever, preserve decorum in their speech. 

No doubt the Queen of England was pleased to hear the 
Queen of Sheba affirm that though a woman, she ruled justly, 
and that in her country girls as well as boys were to be educated 
and learn useful arts. And no doubt she recognized the tribute 
of Solomon to the Queen of Sheba, ' Because you bear learning 
and power instead of a distaff, and are experienced in the virtues, 
you transcend your sex\ The epilogue makes the application 
specific, the Swedish princess serving as the Queen of Sheba 
who had come to enjoy the light-giving of Elizabeth. And an 
anti-Catholic twist is given to the detailed comparison: 

Solomon was just; our Queen is unjust to no man. Solomon was 
merciful; our Queen is mercy itself. The King, exceedingly skillful, 
gave the living offspring to the true parent and assigned the dead 
child to the wicked mother. Our Queen restored her sons to the 
true Church,. . .Solomon built a holy temple to God; our Queen 
has done nothing more important than to renew quickly the ritual 
of holy worship which had been overthrown. 




Oxford men contributed certain original scriptural 
I plays to the general movement for a Biblical drama, 
but so far as our present knowledge goes, it was only- 
Cambridge that gave hospitality to importations from the 
continent. Though mentions of payments for windows broken 
during the performance of plays are much more numerous than 
those of the titles of the plays that were being produced, it 
is from the expense accounts of the Cambridge colleges that 
our list of plays is chiefly derived. When Boas assembled the 
calendar of all plays of all kinds produced in English universi- 
ties, it is not surprising, therefore, that he had to state that the 
plays represented by these titles ' form only a fraction of the 
tragedies, comedies, and miscellaneous "shows" produced on 
College stages during the Tudor period'. 1 He added, how- 
ever, that these may be taken as representative of the types 
performed there. Biblical plays constitute a considerable 
fraction of the total list compiled, and by this reckoning 
Cambridge at least for about twenty-five years found receptive 
audiences for the dramas that had already become well known 
in Europe. 

Queens' College, Cambridge, would seem to have been in 
the forefront of those participating in the revival of classical 
drama, for in 1522-3 a play of Plautus was produced there, 3 
but few of their plays are named in their records. In 1543 a 

1 Frederick S. Boas, University Drama in the Tudor Age (Oxford, 1914), pp. 385— 
90. See also George B. Churchill and Wolfgang Keller, 'Die lateinischen Uni- 
versitats-Dramen Englands in der Zeit der Konigin Elizabeth', Jahrbuch der 
Deutschen Shakespeare-Gesellschaft, vol. xxxiv, pp. 224-32; G. C. Moore Smith, 
College Plays Performed in the University of Cambridge (Cambridge, 1923), and 'The 
Academic Drama in Cambridge', Malone Society Collections, vol. 11, pt. ii, 
pp. 150-230. 

2 On the play and its possible actors see Leicester Bradner, 'The First Cam- 
bridge Production of Miles Gloriosus\ Mod. Lang. Notes, vol. lxx (1955), 
pp. 400-3. 



dialogue of Textor was performed, probably Thersites, 1 but it 
should be noted that a fragment conjectured by Greg to have 
been printed between 1530 and 1534 and identified as a trans- 
lation of Textor's Juventus Pater et Uxor indicates the early 
knowledge in England of that seminal drama found in Textor's 
dialogues. 2 In 1547-8 charcoal was provided at Queens' when 
'adelphes et Heli erant recitatae', offering evidence that the 
Adelphi of Terence and the Heli of Hieronymus Ziegler were 
produced companionably. 

At Christ's College during the Lenten season of 1545 the 
Pammachius of Kirchmeyer (Naogeorgus) was presented, to the 
great annoyance of the chancellor of the university, Stephen 
Gardiner. The vice-chancellor, Matthew Parker, was called 
upon to defend it, which he did in a letter dated on Good 
Friday. Gardiner was not satisfied with the expurgated version 
of the play as performed which was sent to him, and the matter, 
reached the privy council. With one of the leading performers 
bound over to appear before that body when called for, the matter 
apparently became quiescent. 3 The play is not a dramatization 
of Bible story, but it was included in the Brylinger volume, and 
it had been dedicated to the Archbishop of Canterbury (Thomas 
Cranmer). It presented what Mullinger calls a ' rude caricature 
of papal history, as seen through Calvinist spectacles', and, 
though the action should culminate in the second coming of 
Christ, that event had perforce to be left for an unwritten fifth 
act. The play seems to have been much to the taste of John 
Bale, who lists it among his works as a translation. 

At Trinity College the continental Bible play found its 
greatest acceptance. The Sapientia Solomonis of Sixt Birck was 
presented in 1559-60. In 15 60-1 the Acolastus of Gnapheus, 
which should have been anathema to every schoolboy if Pals- 
grave had had his way, was among the offerings. The 'John 

1 The Textor dialogue is entered on 15 January. On 22 February an entry 
occurs 'pro picto clipeo quo miles gloriosus usus est in comoedia', Mai. Soc. 
Coll. 11, ii, 184, which may indicate a performance of the play of Plautus, or as 
Boas thinks (pp. 20-1), it may identify the Textor dialogue as Thersites. 

1 No. 19 in W. W. Greg, Bibliography of the English Printed Drama to the 
Restoration (London, 1939). The fragment is printed in Mai. Soc. Coll. 1, i, 26-30. 

3 J. B. Mullinger, The University of Cambridge (Cambridge, 1884), vol. 11, pp. 74-6. 



babtiste' acted in 1562-3 was presumably Buchanan's Baptistes. 
In 1 5 6 5 -6 the Asotus of Macropedius was performed. In 1 5 66-7 
a play of Jephthes was acted, but whether it was Buchanan's is 
a matter to be discussed later. 

Though Oxford did not, so far as I have discovered, import 
Biblical plays from the continent, it imported from Cambridge 
one of the first English humanists to turn to the writing of such 
plays. Today Nicholas Grimald 1 is known as, after Wyatt and 
Surrey, the most extensive contributor to the Songes and Sonnetes 
published by Tottel in 1557, but the long list of his writings 
accredited to him by his friend John Bale gives good reason 
for the reputation he had in his own day. 2 Barnaby Googe 
wrote an epitaph on his death, affirming 

A thousand doltysh 
Geese we myght have sparde, 
A thousand wytles 
heads, death might have found 
And taken them, 
for whom no man had carde, 
And layde them lowe, 
in deepe oblivious grounde, 
But fortune fa- 
vours Fooles — as old men saye 
And lets them lyve, 
and take the wyse away. 3 

Googe credited him with wit, eloquence, and deep learning. 
Bale called him ' scholasticorum sui temporis non infimum 
decus', and praised him for his writing, his knowledge of 
languages, his eloquence, but most of all for his Christian 
teaching and his seeking divine glory rather than his own. He 

1 Boas devotes his entire chapter on 'Biblical Plays at Oxford' to Grimald, 
pp. 26-42. The fullest account is given by L. R. Merrill, The Life and Poems of 
Nicholas Grimald, Yale Studies in English (New Haven, 1925). Criticism of Merrill's 
conclusions especially to be noted are by Charles R. Baskervill, Modern Philology , 
vol. xxiii (1926), pp. 377-8, and A. W. Reed, Review of English Studies, vol. 11 
(1926), pp. 483-5. 

2 Merrill, pp. 15-17, quotes Bale's list from his Index Britanniae Scriptorum 
(Oxford, 1902), pp. 302-4. 

3 Merrill, p. 52, with one minor change from Googe, Eglogs, Epytaphes, and 
Sonettss (London, 1563), fF. 4-5. All quotations of Grimald are from Merrill's 



translated Cicero and Hesiod and Xenophon and Plato, wrote 
paraphrases of Virgil and other Latin authors and commentaries 
on them. He translated portions of the Psalms and wrote on 
disputed passages of the Scripture. He wrote, indeed, as a 
Christian humanist. That he wrote both secular and Biblical 
plays, therefore, is in keeping with his role among men of 
learning. What other role he played in events of his time is 
uncertain. The documents printed by his biographer, L. R. 
Merrill, in 1925 seemed to point to him as a double-dealer, who 
betrayed the martyred Protestant bishop, Ridley, while pro- 
fessing loyalty to him. Such eminent scholars as A. W. Reed 
and Charles R. Baskervill refused, however, to accept Merrill's 
conclusions from the evidence. Certainly Bale gave no hint of 
suspicion concerning his friend. 

Grimald left Cambridge, where he had been a member of 
Christ's College, after taking his B.A. degree in the year 1539- 
40. He then went to Oxford, on the advice of Gilbert Smith, 
Archdeacon of Peterborough, who helped him with money as 
well as advice. For a time he stayed at Brasenose College, where 
the principal was a relative of his patron. Since his books did 
not reach him there for several weeks, he decided to occupy 
his time in writing a play, and it was performed in 1540. He 
was urged to publish it, and accordingly Christus Redivivus was 
printed in 1 5 43 at Cologne as a comoedia tragica, sacra et nova. 
Grimald dedicated his drama to his patron, as was fitting, 
explaining that his tutor had approved what he had done: 

I had incorporated in the play no frivolous epigrams, no jokes 
about love, no silly talk, no mimes, no dialogue of the lowest type of 
men, no Atellan comedy, no tavern-plays, none of the strange tales of 
heathen dramas, which contribute nothing of profit toward the 
formation of character, to sound learning, or to the extension of 
divine praise. 

Instead of such offerings, Grimald had presented what was 
valuable : 

I had taken for the subject of my poem a Creator, instead of creatures ; 
instead of lost and deplorable human beings, a Saviour and Redeemer ; 
instead of human display, the furtherance of divine glory; in short, 
the very author of song, Jesus Christ : . . . Therefore my teacher 

12 177 CDP 


constantly asserted that my labor in this task was praiseworthy, 
because the doctrine, for faith in which Christ so earnestly builded, 
and on which all hope of human power ought to be founded, was 
not only audible, but even visible in my work. 1 

The structure of his play had also been approved by his tutor 
because the events proceeded in chronological order, and as a 
tragi-comedy the first act dealt with real sorrow while 'the 
fifth and last adapts itself to delight and joy', and in 'all the 
other intermediate acts sad and cheerful incidents are inserted 
in turn'. The metre was 'almost that of Terence', the tutor 
said, and decorum was observed as to ' character, theme, time, 
and place'. The action was arranged for one stage setting, and 
the author had the Captivi of Plautus as authority for his failure 
to observe the unity of time and for the sad opening and the 
happy conclusion of the play. With his verses he had been as 
strictly correct as if he had been writing in a spirit not of Chris- 
tian liberty but of pagan exactness. Apparently Grimald saw 
nothing incongruous in justifying his drama about the death of 
Christ by a precedent from Plautus or making Christian liberty 
apply to the too free verse. 

The effect of classical precedent is evidenced in other matters 
too. Sometimes the play exceeds its models, for there are not 
only a prologue and an epilogue but also five arguments, one 
prefixed to each of the five acts. A chorus of Galilean women, 
a chorus of disciples, and a group of spirits of the dead take 
part in the dialogue though they do not mark the division 
between the acts. The classical metres are carefully marked. 
The most notable additions to the Biblical characters are Alecto, 
the fury, and Dromo, Dorus, Sangax, and Brumax, the four 
comic soldiers who certainly derive from the miles gloriosus even 
though they guard the tomb of Christ. Merrill has shown also 
that much of the dialogue between the others was taken from 
Virgil, sometimes by the line-full, and oaths are sworn by Hector 
and by Apollo. 

Not only classical elements are to be considered in Grimald's 

1 Merrill, p. 52, with one minor change from Googe, Eglogs, Epytaphes, and 
Sonettes (London, 1563), ff. 4-5. All quotations of Grimald are from Merrill's 



play, however, for as Boas has pointed out, the Christus 
Xylonicus of Barthelemy must have been in Grimald's mind as 
he wrote his play. It was printed in the Brylinger volume, but 
it had been previously printed at Paris in 1529, and several 
continental editions had followed. Boas writes : 

Alecto would not have tempted Caiaphas in Christus Redivivus (iv, v) 
had she not already tempted Judas in Christus Xylonicus. The Roman 
soldiers who guard the tomb in the Brasenose drama are called 
Dromo, Dorus, Brumax, and Sangax; Grimald took these names 
(the last wih an 'x' added) from those of the minor characters in 
the continental play. He even makes Caiaphas speak of 'Christus 
xylonicus' (iv, iii) after the Resurrection, though the phrase, as 
devised by Bartholomaeus, applies to the Saviour triumphant on the 
Cross itself. 1 

The second of Grimald's Biblical plays that have come down 
to us, Archipropheta, 2 was produced at Christ Church, Oxford, 
probably in 1546, and with some emendations was printed in 
1 548, at Cologne, as his Christus Redivivus had been. In the dedi- 
cation to Doctor Richard Cox, Dean of Christ Church, Grimald 
explained the quality which caused the Greeks to accord the 
name of poet to a writer, as Sidney and Ben Jonson were to do 

Such a thing happens when a deed is portrayed in adequate language, 
and characters are introduced as though living and breathing; when 
time, place, words, and deeds are vividly depicted; when the whole 
action is brought before your eyes and ears, so that it seems not so 
much to be told, to be narrated, as to be done, to be enacted. 

He pointed out also the spiritual and ethical lessons to be learned 
from this portrayal of John the Baptist. 

Grimald's theory of the poet as maker or creator acquires 
significance as we study his play, for, while Jehovah and John's 

1 Boas, pp. 28-9. 

2 Merrill, pp. 222-5, finds the source of the play in Josephus. To me the Bible 
narrative as it is given in Matt. xiv. 3-12, Mark vi. 17-29, and Luke iii. 19-20 
seems its basic source. Boas, pp. 34-5, discusses its probable indebtedness to 
Jacob Schoepper's Ectrachelistis sive Jonannes Decollatus. Alfred Harbage, Annals 
of the English Drama (Philadelphia, 1940), classes it as an adaptation of Schoepper's 
play, but the careful comparison made by Boas could not lead to this conclusion. 
G. C. Taylor, 'The Christus Redivivus of Nicholas Grimald and the Hegge 
Resurrection Plays', P.M.L.A. vol. xli (1926), pp. 84-9, suggested another 
possible source. 

179 I2 . 2 


followers give recitals of preceding events, the greater part of 
the dialogue and of the action is realistically presented. Herod 
and Herodias speak with passion of their love. When, in the 
fourth act, Herodias adorns her daughter Tryphera for con- 
quest, she takes care to place every jewel in its most seductive 
place; she arranges her robe and teaches her her steps and her 
body movements, shows her how to be effective. Every fish, 
fowl, and red meat that is set before the banqueters is listed by 
a chorus of Herod's men. The revelry is presented with song 
and wine and dance and varied music. As the daughter of 
Herodias leads the dance, Herod comments with gusto on her 
performance. At her demand that he fulfil his vow to give her 
whatever she may desire, he commands the beheading of the 
prophet, the severed head is actually brought on the stage and 
after being offered to Herodias is placed on the king's table. 
The fifth act includes a recital by the Syrian girl to John's dis- 
ciples of the events that have taken place, describing them with 
Senecan relish. John's disciples and a chorus of plebeians take 
farewell of the prophet, apparently standing about the bloody 
ground on which rests his headless body. Herod passes by, 
repenting his reckless vow and his having fulfilled it even though 
it had been given. He gives permission for them to bury their 
leader, and they seemingly cover the still headless body with a 
mound of earth. 

Archipropheta has no prologue or epilogue, though the 
speech of Jehovah which makes up the first scene functions well 
as a prologue. There are five acts with many scenes, determined 
by a change of speakers. A chorus marks the end of the first 
four acts, but there are directions for other choruses of 
plebeians, of Herod's followers, of banqueters, and of Idu- 
maeans as well as a group of John's disciples, who function as 
a chorus. Minor characters are multiplied, — the Syrian man, 
the Syrian slave girl, and the court fool furnishing common 
sense, and sometimes comic, foils for the impassioned and tragic 
principals. The lyrics introduced in the banqueting scene give 
charm and variety to the episode which ends in horror: 
beginning with a Sapphic ode saluting the feast, and ranging 
through lyrics in varied metres (all carefully identified), they 



reach a climax in a great drinking song and a song praising the 
fruit and nuts being offered as the final course. 

The staging of the play would seem to present many prob- 
lems, but there are no stage directions to indicate how they 
were solved. Jehovah speaks in the first and fifth acts. The 
place changes. There are interior and exterior scenes. The num- 
ber of actors required seems formidable, since all the choruses 
must apparently be present for the banqueting scene. 

The Christus Redivivus and the Archipropheta are the only two 
of Grimald's plays which are known to have survived, but Bale 
has recorded four others which Boas has assumed were also 
acted. Two are Biblical plays: Christus Nascens, a comedy 
according to Bale, and Protomartyr, a tragedy, presumably con- 
cerning the stoning of Stephen as the first Christian martyr. 
The other two must have been written as studies in contrast: 
¥ama and Athanasius sive Infamia. It is of interest that he wrote 
also two non-Biblical plays in English: Troilus, based on 
Chaucer's poem, and De Puerorum in Musicis Institutions, the 
Latin title of which was probably contributed by Bale in line 
with his habitual and confusing practice. Altogether Grimald 
must have been reckoned a considerable dramatist in academic 

John Foxe at Magdalen College wrote Latin plays on religious 
subjects at the same time that Grimald was writing, 1 according 
to his son, and there were probably others at Oxford whose 
plays have disappeared ; but today we know only the two plays 
of Grimald — who came from Cambridge. 

Judging from surviving records and surviving plays we can 
only assume, therefore, that Cambridge was more hospitable to 
the dramatization of Bible story than was Oxford. At about the 
time when Grimald went from Cambridge to Oxford and there 
busied himself with Christus Kedivivus while waiting for his 
books to follow, a young man in St John's College, Cambridge, 
was writing a play which has become famous because of what 

1 J. F. Mozley, John Foxe and His Book (London, 1940), p. 20. A footnote 
refers to Lans. MS. 388, n, 112-46. This manuscript offers a challenge in its 
bad penmanship and cross-writing, but it is a challenge I have refused, as 
apparently the biographer did also. 



Roger Ascham wrote about it in his Scholemaster. The passage is 
one of the most frequently quoted in all histories of dramatic 
literature, but it needs to be considered against the background 
of Ascham's general maxim that 'preceptes in all Authors, and 
namelie in Aristotle, without applying unto them the Imitation 
of examples, be hard, drie, and cold, and therefore barrayn, 
unfruitfull, and unpleasant'. It is this comment that must be 
remembered as we read further: 

Whan M. Watson in S. Johns College at Cambridge wrote his ex- 
cellent Tragedie of Absalon, M. Cheke, he, and I for that part of 
trew Imitation, had many pleasant talkes togither, in comparing the 
preceptes of Aristotle and Horace de Arte Poetica with the examples of 
Euripides, Sophocles, and Seneca. Few men, in writyng of Tragedies 
in our dayes, have shot at this marke. Some in England, more in 
France, Germanie, and Italie also have written Tragedies in our tyme : 
of the which not one I am sure is able to abyde the trew touch of 
Aristotles preceptes and Euripides examples, save onely two that 
ever I saw, M. Watsons Absalon and Georgius Buckananus Jephthe. 

Ascham wrote further of Watson's meticulous care in composi- 
tion. He commented on Watson's criticism of a fellow drama- 
tist for his deviation from approved metrical usage, noting that 
Watson himself 'would never suffer yet his Absalon to go 
abroad, and that onelie bicause, in locis paribus, Anapestus is twise 
or thrise used in stede of Iambus: A smal faulte, and such one 
as perchance would never be marked, no neither in Italie nor 
France'. 1 It would seem that Watson as well as Grimald was 
writing in the spirit of pagan exactness rather than Christian 
liberty. At any rate, though his praises were sounded by Gabriel 
Harvey, William Webbe, Thomas Nashe, Francis Meres, and 
others of his time, his metrical scruples have seemingly lost his 
play to posterity. An avowed and aggressive Catholic, he was 
one of Gardiner's chaplains. In difficulties during the reign of 
Edward VI, he became after Mary's accession master of 
St John's College, Cambridge, Dean of Durham, and Bishop of 
Lincoln, only to lose his dignities when Elizabeth came to the 
throne and to live for the most part in custody. So far as is 
known, Absalon was his only dramatic production. 

1 G. Gregory Smith, Elizabethan Critical Essays (London, 1904 and 1937)^0!. 1, 
pp. 21 and 23-4. 



A play with Absalon as its tragic hero exists in manuscript 
in the British Museum. It is without title-page or title, no 
record of author or production has been found, and Boas, who 
gave a full summary of its plot, decided that it probably was not 
Watson's much-discussed play. 1 The manuscript is much correc- 
ted, and its provenance is far outside the concern of this study, 
but with its five acts, each closed by a chorus, its many scenes 
in a variety of carefully labelled metres, the play by any author 
offers an instance of Bible story poured into a classical mould. 

In 1544 or thereabouts John Christopherson, another out- 
spoken young Catholic, was writing another play on Jephthah, 
and it cannot be without significance that the writers who used 
Jephthah and Herod as the archetypes of those who reap the 
whirlwind of disaster from thoughtlessly made vows were 
dealing with a subject on which violent controversy was 
raging. Christopherson, however, was not compelled to justify 
the theological orthodoxy of his play as was Buchanan before 
the Inquisition. 2 His play has interested modern students of 
dramatic history chiefly because, as Boas says, it is 'the only 
English academic play in Greek to have survived'. 3 A Latin 
version, credibly reported to have existed, is now lost. The 
Greek play was dedicated (in Latin) to William Parr, Earl of 

1 Boas, pp. 352-65. See also Churchill and Keller, n. on p. 174 above. 

2 A. Brief e Treatise concerning the Burnynge of Bucer and Phagius at Cambrydge, in 
the Time of §lueene Mary, with Their destitution in the Time of Our Most Gracious 
Soverayne Lady That Now Is, transl. by Arthur Golding (London, 1562), gives 
a gruesome account of the burning and mal-treating of the corpses of the 
two, their bodies having been exhumed as not worthy of Christian burial. 
Watson and Christopherson were prominent in the affair. See ch. 11, p. 155, 
above for Buchanan's testimony on vows and its relation to the Bucer-Latomus 
controversy. Christopherson's play is edited and translated by F. H. Forbes with 
an introduction by W. O. Sypherd (Newark, Delaware, 1928). The Chorus 
(in Forbes's translation) comments on vows (p. 135): 

Before he sware, 
The wise man should debate. 
Be sure fulfilment must ensue, 
For God demands the promised price. 

Ere swearing meditate. 
'Pay sans regret. On foolish vow 
' Reproach attends ; on vow discreet 
'Abundant honors wait.' 

3 Boas, pp. 43-62. For an account of the founding of Trinity College see 
Mullinger, vol. 11, pp. 80-5. 



Essex; the lost Latin version was dedicated to King Henry VIII ; 
and another dedication to Bishop Tunstall exists presumably 
intended for a copy of either the Greek or the Latin version. 
The dedications are indicative at least of ambition for access to 
the great. 

Christopherson's fortunes, like those of his friend Watson, 
changed with the changing fortunes of his religion. He had 
received his B.A. degree in 15 40-1 and his M.A. in 1543. He 
had been a fellow of Pembroke and St John's and was one of 
the original fellows of Trinity College when it was formally 
established by the royal letters of 19 December 1546. Thomas 
Nashe praised St John's as a university in itself that had l sent 
from her fruitefull wombe sufficient Schollers, both to support 
her own weale as also to supplie all other inferiour foundations 
defects, and namelie the royall erection of Trinitie Colledge'. 1 
While Edward VI was on the throne, Christopherson went into 
exile. When Mary became Queen he was appointed Master of 
Trinity, as Watson was made Master of St John's, both being 
given authority in the revision of their colleges' statutes. An 
opportune pamphlet on rebellion by Christopherson at the time 
of Wyatt's rebellion was pleasing to the authorities. His ad- 
vancement to Dean of Norwich and Bishop of Chichester was 
obliterated, however, when on the second Sunday after Eliza- 
beth's accession he preached a controversial sermon that led to 
his arrest. He died soon after. 

Whether Christopherson's play was ever performed is not 
clear. Boas tentatively assigns it to Trinity in 1 544, but Trinity 
as Trinity was not established until 1 546, and the records of the 
college begin then. In the Steward's Book of Trinity for 1 5 66-7 
there is listed a payment ' to Mr Legge in regard to his playe ' 
and in that year the Junior Bursar's Accounts record a payment 
'To Mr Legge ffor the charges offe Jephthes as appearith by 
his bille'. 2 Boas lists the play as Christopherson's but notes 
that it may have been Buchanan's. It is even possible that it may 
have been still another play by Thomas Legge, praised by 
Meres for his Richardus Tertius and The Destruction of Jerusalem. 

1 G. G. Smith, vol. 1, p. 313. 

2 Moore Smith, Mai. Soc. Coll. 11, ii, 165-6. 



Whoever was the author of the play produced at Trinity in 
1566-7, the 1544 Greek play of Christopherson exists, and we 
have the various dedications which are of interest in proving 
the motive of his writing. To Essex he noted his progress from 
philosophy to religion as his chosen study. To Bishop Tunstall 
he said that he had chanced upon the story of Jephthah and his 
daughter in the eleventh chapter of the book of Judges, and 
seeing in it a pattern similar to that familiar to him in the Iphi- 
genia in Aulis of Euripides, he recognized that it was an appro- 
priate subject for tragedy. It is a greater story than that told by 
the Greek poet, he thought, because this in the Bible is true. 
Christopherson, therefore, proceeded to write a Greek tragedy 
in Greek, and in order to make it conform more nearly to the 
classical prototype he added certain characters: the wife of 
Jephthah, modelled after Clytemnestra in Iphigenia, and Hecuba 
in the play of that title; two messengers to report affairs of war; 
the manservant who acts as the messenger to give an eye- 
witness report of the sacrifice ; and a chorus to function as in 
Greek tragedy. The stages of the action are marked by the 
intervention of the chorus which serves to emphasize the 
psychological struggles involved as well as the moral problem 
focused on the Jephthah vow. Jephthah's opening speech 
furnished a prologue, and in the absence of an epilogue the 
chorus ends the play with a final admonition that 'A vow made 
cannot be set aside', and a warning that 'a vow at random 
made / Oft ends in ruin'. It is an argument that has no appeal 
to the mother of the doomed girl. There is pathos and horror, 
tenderness and tragedy in the play, and a creative imagination 
is evident in the new meaning given to the old story. 

In 1562-3 two scriptural dramas were performed at Trinity 
College. The ' John babtiste ' was probably the play of Buchanan 
produced earlier on the continent. Christus Triumphans was 
quite certainly the play by John Foxe which had been printed 
at Basel in 1 5 5 6 as a * comoedia apocalyptica ', thus setting up 
a new dramatic genre. Appended was a prose panegyric to 
Christ. So far as I have been able to find out, the play has never 
been translated into English, though a French translation was 
made in 1562, but in 1579 Richard Day published Christ Jesus 



Triumphant as 'translated from the Latin V and it has been 
assumed by Herford and others that he translated Foxe's play, 
whereas he translated only the prose panegyric and the closing 
prayers. He did, however, in dedicating the translation to 
William, Lord Howard of Effingham, the son of Charles, 
Earl of Nottingham, give many facts concerning Foxe which 
formed the texture of later biographies. Foxe had his B.A. 
degree from Oxford in 1 5 37 and his M.A. in 1 543. He became 
a fellow of Magdalen in 1539 an< ^ remained there for seven 
years, leaving when it became necessary to take priest's orders 
if he remained. Some time during his university career he had 
come to a change of religion. After a brief stay at Charlecote 
as tutor in the Lucy household he knew a distressing poverty 
from which he was rescued by being appointed tutor to the 
children of the Earl of Surrey, the unfortunate children who 
after the execution of their father had been put in the charge 
of his sister, the Duchess of Richmond. Another Howard 
nephew, Charles (later to lead the English fleet against the 
Armada), joined them at Reigate, the house of the Duke of 
Norfolk. From that time on Foxe owed much to the Howards. 
Day himself referred to the sixth chapter of Revelation in his 
account of Foxe : 

When Sathans red Horse and bloudy sword marched forth against 
the Gospel of Christ his kingdome, newly planted in England: 
Wily Winchester (Bishop Gardiner) fastened his fiery eyes upon 
this good man. First gladly woulde hee have brought him to the 
field for the bluddy and fierie battaile: but the speedier favor of 
that most princely Duke, sent him away safely into Germany, where 
in the Cittie of Basill hee became a most painefull traveller at his 
pen in the house of Oporinus that learned, and famous Printer: 
Among many other woorkes this little Treatise was there penned in 
Latine : Likewise there he compiled in Latine his first Martyrologe, 
which he exhibited to the same Princely Lord and Duke. 

The Christus Triumphans was printed by Oporinus in 1556, as 
I have said, and the 1559 edition of Foxe's martyrology in Latin 
was printed by Nicholas Brylinger and John Oporinus, the 
two printers responsible for the great collections of Bible plays. 
When Elizabeth became Queen, and it was possible for Foxe 

1 Another edition was printed in 1607. 


to return to England, it was his former pupil who took him in, 
the young Duke of Norfolk, marked in history because of his 
fatal plan to marry Mary of Scotland. Richard Day recounts 
the facts of Foxe's residence in the Duke's manor house : 

From that his house he travailed weekely every Monday to the most 
worthy Printing-house of John Day: In that my fathers house many 
dayes and yeares, and infinite summes of mony were spent to 
accomplish and consummate his English Monumentes, and other 
many excellent Workes. 

Editions of Foxe's Latin play were published in London in 
1672 and 1676, the editor e T.C [Thomas Combes], M.A., of 
Sidney Sussex College, dedicating it to 'Doctis, Scholarchis, 
& Ludi Literarii Ducibus' in words that demonstrate the 
persistence of the ideals which from the first had motivated the 
writers of the academic Biblical drama. ' Why, when you im- 
print in the minds of boys history, rhetoric, poetic, comic and 
tragic matters, do you not also train them in Christian writings 
seasoned with rhetorical and poetic wit?' he asks. And he 
argues that pagan tragedies and comedies plunge the lips and 
the mind into the use of pagan oaths and teach what faith 
teaches must be untaught. Such oaths as by Pollux, by the temple 
of Pollux, by Castor, by Hercules, are not fit for Christian tongues, 
he said, and it will be evident in the succeeding pages that 
'T.C was commenting on the oaths too often found in the 
Biblical plays of Foxe's own century. His play, at any rate, was 
free of them. And the editor also praises the play for having 
no ' ware from the lewd workshop of Ovid ' and no Plautine 
slaves teaching tricks to ne'er-do-wells. 

Foxe lived with John Bale at Reigate and in Basel and worked 
with him in the printing-house of Oporinus. He refers to Asotus 
in the preface of his play and uses Barthelemy's word xylonicus. 
Brylinger and Oporinus printed his great work. Thus he was 
inevitably familiar with the aims of the men who were writing 
and promoting the attempt to create a new literature based on 
the Bible. Even in his Oxford days he was writing religious 
plays. His Chris tus Triumphans is not strictly a Biblical play, 
being directed primarily to pointing out the perils of the time, 
chiefly as they were seen in the Catholic church of his day. 



Like Pammachius it does not come strictly within the class of 
plays which I have undertaken to review, but Foxe's participa- 
tion in the whole movement is important. Herford gives an 
exhaustive account of the play, tracing perhaps overzealously 
its indebtedness to Vammachius^ indications of which he finds 
in some unlikely places. 

Foxe professed to dramatize those parts of the Apocalypse 
that applied to the history of the church, but he incorporated 
much extraneous matter into the Biblical patchwork of his plot 
and wandered far from Biblical authority in the number and 
range of his characters. Constructing his drama on the accepted 
classical pattern, he began with a prologue asking silence as 

Poeta novus, (spectatores novi) novam 
Rem dum spectandum profert in proscenium. 

Then came a 'periocha' which outlines the plot and concludes 
with a demand for applause. The Rve acts are divided into 
scenes. Opening with Eva talking with Maria and mourning 
her children Psyche (identified by Foxe as anima humand) and 
Soma, the play closes with Africus and Europus reunited to 
their mother Ecclesia attended by a chorus of five virgins. An 
epithalamium is sung. Herford thought the drama should 
rather be divided into three parts ' corresponding to the three 
times of trial through which the ideal Church had passed ' : the 
periods represented by the Jewish law, the Roman persecution, 
and the tyranny of the papal Antichrist. * Such a division would, 
however, disregard the five-act formula set for those plays 
written to substitute Biblical material for that of the pagans. 
The production must have presented difficulties in staging for 
Messrs Browne and Wilkynson in Cambridge in 1 562-3,* for 
Satan falls from above, Christ leads Psyche from Orcus, and 
diverse scenes crowd the stage. The members of Trinity College 
who sat through a performance of Foxe's apocalyptic drama 
would, it seems to a modern reader, be worthy of inclusion in 
his most famous work. 

1 Herford, pp. 138-48. Boas does not discuss the play but lists it as performed. 
The 1556 Latin text carefully notes the varied metres of the play. The French 
translation omits the panegyric and the metrical notes, but it gives the music for 
the nuptial song. It was made by Jaques Bienvenu and printed in Geneva. 

1 Moore Smith, Mai. Soc. Coll. n, ii, 163. 



A far better dramatist than Foxe wrote at least one Bible play, 
but unfortunately the only original academic scriptural play 
written in English about which there is sufficient evidence to 
be included here is lost. We know, however, that the E^echias 
written by Nicholas Udall and produced on 8 August 1 5 64, in 
the King's College chapel, was among those offered at Cam- 
bridge for the entertainment of Elizabeth during her progress 
that year. Udall died in 1556, but his plays seem to have lived 
after him. Ralph Roister Doister was entered on the Stationers' 
Register in 1 566 and was probably printed soon after that date. 
Bale said that Udall had written many plays, as seems probable, 
for he was in charge of the production of plays while he was 
schoolmaster at Eton, and the Loseley Manuscripts contain a 
copy of the warrant issued by Queen Mary on 1 3 December 
1 5 54, to the master and yeoman of the Revels which may once 
more be quoted in part: 

Wher as our welbelovid Nicholas udall haith at sondry seasons 
convenient hertofore shewid and myndeth herafter to shewe his 
diligence in settinge forthe of dialogwes and Entreludes before us 
four our Regall disport and recreacion to thentent that he may be 
in the better redynes at all tymes when it shalbe our pleasure to call, 
wee will and comaunde you and every of you that at all & every 
soche tyme and tymes so ofte and when so ever he shall neade & 
requier it for shewing of any thinge before us ye delyver or cause 
to be delyvered to the said udall or the bringer herof in his name 
out of our office of Revelles soche apperell for his Auctors as he 
shall thinke necessarye. . . . And that ye faile not thus to doe from 
tyme to tyme as ye tender our pleasure till ye shall receve expresse 
comaundement from us to the contrary herof. 
There are also records of the payments made between 1 3 Decem- 
ber and the following 7 January in connection with 'certen 
plaies made by Nicholas udall & their incydentes'. 1 It is clear 
that before and after this date Udall set forth interludes for 
Mary. Various plays still extant have been attributed to him, only 
Ralph Roister Doister with complete assurance. It is, therefore, 
tantalizing to have a record of E^echias without the play itself. 

E^echias has a special interest for another reason in connection 

1 'The Loseley Manuscripts', Documents Relating to the Revels at Court in the 
Time of King Edward Viand Queen Mary, ed. Albert Feuillerat (Louvain, 1914); 
Materialen %ur Kunde des alteren englischen Dramas, vol. xliv, pp. 159 and 166. 



with its author, for it will be remembered that Udall had trans- 
lated Erasmus's paraphrase of the gospel of Luke in 1545, and 
that in his preface to his translation he had called Henry VIII 
'a new Ezechias to confound al idols, to destroy all hillalters 
of supersticion, to roote up all counterfait religions, and to 
restore . . . the true religion and worship of god, the syncere 
prechyng of gods word, and the booke of the lawe, that is to 
say of Christes holy testament to be read of the people in their 
vulgare toung \ It must be recalled also that, when in 1 5 47 the 
Privy Council ordered the paraphrase of the gospels to be set 
up in all the churches, Udall was made responsible for the 
editing of the first volume, and he included the paraphrase of 
John done by the then Princess Mary. The editor of Ralph 
Koister Doister has suggested that this collaboration with Mary 
may account for the special favour she showed him as Queen. 
Of course, she may have just recognized in him the ability to 
write entertaining plays. In any case the puzzle remains as to 
why Udall as a known adherent of the Reformation was in 
Queen Mary's good grace unless he had tempered his religious 
enthusiasm by the time she was on the throne. 1 The accounts 
of Ezechias indicate that it was a Protestant play more fitted 
to be played before Elizabeth in 1 5 64. 

Ironically the two accounts of the lone academic Biblical play 
written in English were written in Latin, one by Abraham 
Hartwell, the other by Nicholas Robinson. Boas has given a 
summary of the drama as he has attempted to reconstruct it 
from these accounts. 2 Based on chapters eighteen and nineteen 
of the second book of Kings it began he thinks with Heze- 
kiah's destruction of the 'idolatrous images and the brazen 
serpent'. The subsequent rebellion and destruction of the altars 
of the God of Israel by the supporters of the heathen worship 
were followed by the appearance of a prophet (Isaiah probably) 
who warned them of the punishment to come. A messenger 

1 The fullest account of Udall is given by G. Scheurwegh as editor of Roister 
Doister, Materiakn, n.s. xvi (Louvain, 1939). See xxxv-xlviii on Ezechias and 
Udall's religion. 

2 Boas, pp. 94-7. The Latin account of Hartwell, Kegina Literata (London, 
1565), is reprinted in Nichols, Progresses of Elizabeth, 1788 ed. vol. 1, and that of 
Robinson in the 1805 ed. vol. in. They are found in Scheurwegh, pp. xxv- 
xxxviii also. 



announced the approach of the invading Assyrians, the Israe- 
lites were called upon to surrender, Hezekiah prayed for their 
deliverance, and according to the Bible story the angel of the 
Lord smote the Assyrians in the night so that 'an hundred 
four-score and five thousand ' were dead when morning came. 
Boas thinks this catastrophic conclusion of the Assyrian in- 
vasion must have been recited by a messenger and, indeed even 
though the audience could 'Into a thousand parts divide one 
man', the stage would have been overcrowded with corpses if 
the Assyrians were actually on the stage. Apparently there was 
some admixture of facetiae in the play, but the destruction of 
Israel's enemies may have constituted a happy ending and 
helped to justify Robinson in calling it a comedy. 

Though these are the only university plays which can with 
any certainty be identified as Bible plays so far as I have been 
able to discover, the number is sufficient to indicate first that 
the continental scriptural drama was known and was being 
heard in England, and second that English writers too were 
contributing to the movement for a literature based on the 
Bible. The very list of these English writers is impressive. 
Grimald, Watson, Christopherson, Foxe, and Udall were all 
men of consequence in the sixteenth century. Though there 
were some who decried plays in general and some who decried 
Biblical plays in particular, as I shall indicate later, even they 
were inclined to make exception of university plays, especially 
such plays as I have been describing. Geoffrey Fenton was not 
speaking with a lone voice when he said: 

Heare I reproove not the Plaies of scollers in actions of comedies & 
tragedies, common and Christian, wherein is exercise of morral 
doctrines, & much lesse of the historye of the Bible, exhibited for 
good instructions and exhortacions to vertue, and by the which 
they are prepared to a boldnes of speache in all honorable assemblies, 
enhabling their tongues to readye and well disposed eloquence. 
Such plaies are far from merit of blame specially, if they hold no 
commixture with the superstitions of the Gentiles, not othes by the 
Gods and Goddesses, which often times is peformed in the name of 
Jupiter, & pertake nothing with the lascivious jestuures and mirth 
of the Pagans. 1 

1 Geoffrey Fenton, A Forme of Christian Pollicie (London, 1574), pp. 146-7. 

I 9 I 



Two movements need to be taken into account in con- 
sidering the Biblical drama written in English. The first 
is the rise of a new English secular drama as part of the 
general movement to create an English literature. So far as has 
been discovered this drama found its first enthusiasts in the 
group usually identified as the Sir Thomas More circle. 1 This 
circle was fortunate in including printers who gave their work 
permanency, the most notable of those who were both authors 
and printers being More's brother-in-law and nephew, John 
and William Rastell. John RastelTs son-in-law, John Heywood, 
is reckoned generally as the most important in the development 
of the drama. The earliest play of the new type now known was 
Fulgens and Lucrece, written before 1 500 and published by John 
Rastell some time between 15 12 and 15 16. The title-page de- 
scribes it as a * godely interlude' and names the author as Henry 
Medwall, chaplain to John Morton, Cardinal and Archbishop 
of Canterbury. It will be remembered that More as a young 
member of Cardinal Morton's household was said to have acted 
in plays there. 

This earliest of the new secular plays was derived from a dibat 
by Bonaccorso, De Vera Nobilitate* and the fact is significant, 
for the dialogue was a formative influence in shaping the drama 
of the period. Not only in the training of schoolboys but in 
the literature of the period it held a conspicuous place, and 
the More circle contributed to its popularity. More's most 
important works were put in dialogue form, and both John 

1 The history of the group and a record of their individual activities is given 
by A. W. Reed, Early Tudor Drama (London, 1926). 

1 That Medwall and Sixt Birck (Betuleius) wrote independently plays based 
on Bonaccorso's treatise, De Vera Nobilitate, is demonstrated by A. W. Reed, 
'Sixt Birck and Henry Medwall', R.E.S. vol. 11 (1926), pp. 411-15. A fuller 
account is given by Reed, Early Tudor Drama, pp. 96-100, where Medwall's 
immediate source was stated to be a translation of the debat by John Tiptoft, 
Earl of Worcester, from a French version. It was printed by Caxton in 1481. 



Rastell and John Heywood wrote dialogues. It is not to be 
wondered at, then, that their plays were in fact little more than 
dramatized dialogues. They called their plays interludes, for 
what reason is not clear. Some critics have thought the term 
implied a performance put on between the courses of a banquet 
or during an interval between other activities; others have 
followed Chambers in thinking it referred to an action or a 
dialogue between two or more people. Whatever the meaning 
attached to it, the term distinguished the dramas in the vernacu- 
lar for a good many years to come, though sometimes an indica- 
tion of classical genre was added, as it was in John Rastell's 
play Calisto and Me/ebea, described as 'A new commodye in 
englysh in maner of an interlude'. The Biblical dramas followed 
the course of the secular dramas, consisting at first largely of 
dialogue not organized into acts and scenes and called inter- 

The second movement contributing to the evolving of a 
Biblical drama in English to which I have referred was the 
movement which resulted in the translation of the Bible into 
English and the authorization of the English prayer-books. 
Throughout Protestant Christendom it was becoming possible 
to think of religion as not being served exclusively in the Latin 
language. The Genevan acceptance of Abraham Sacrifiant demon- 
strated most conspicuously the more flexible attitude of the 
Protestants toward the use of the vernacular in Scriptural plays, 
but they were coming to be produced in considerable numbers 
by such writers as Hans Sachs 1 elsewhere than in this Calvinist 

Of the Biblical dramas written in English in the sixteenth 
century, a rather surprisingly large number have survived; but 
the time and place of their composition or of their production 
can be inferred only from internal evidence in most cases. Other 
than that afforded by surviving copies and the entries in the 
Stationers' Register after 1557, there is little external evidence 
available. I have, nevertheless, ventured to group separately 
those which seem to be directed to limited groups and those 

1 See, for instance, the account of Sachs in William Creizenach, Geschichte des 
Neueren Dramas (Halle, 1923), vol. in, pp. 338-52. 

13 T 93 CDP 


clearly intended for all who would listen, though any such 
separation can at best be only tentative. 

Stories from the Old Testament and the sermons and particu- 
larly the parables of the New Testament were most often chosen 
for dramatization on the continent, as I have already pointed 
out, and the story of the prodigal son in the fifteenth chapter 
of Luke was the most popular of all. It seems to have offered 
a specially tempting opportunity to the pedagogical mind, and 
the pattern of the prodigal-son play as it was established by 
continental schoolmasters influenced directly the writers of 
such plays in England. Because there was a pattern established, 
I have chosen to isolate these plays and describe them in this 
chapter separately. 

Ravisius Textor, 1 professor in the College of Navarre in the 
University of Paris and later rector of the university, included 
among his dramatic dialogues Juvems Pater et Uxor, which is 
generally regarded as the forerunner of the prodigal-son play. 
The earliest version to be printed in England, known only by a 
single leaf of text in which Pater, Filius, Uxor, and Servus speak, 2 
evidently is related to the Textor dialogue and is thought by 
Greg to have been printed by William Rastell between 1530 
and 1 534.3 It is written in English, and it suggests a lively 
picture of a young man who refused the education his father 
wanted him to have, chose ' a shrewde queane to his wyfe ', and 
is forced to sell faggots. His wife beats him, the servant antici- 
pates the famous Jeeves in correcting his pronunciation, and 
his wife sings a song marking him a cuckold. The Disobedient 
Child, it will be seen, seems but to amplify this story. 

Of the many continental dramatizations of the parable Her- 
ford considered the Acolastus of Gnaphaeus, the Rebe/Ies of 

1 Jean Tissier de Ravisy is generally known by the Latin form of his name. 
He is entered as Ravisius in the index to Chambers's Med. Stage and as Textor in 
his Eli%. Stage. A full account is given by Creizenach (Halle, 1918), vol. n, 
pp. 56-62. See also vol. in, 468-9, and Boas, p. 19. 

1 The leaf is reprinted in Mai. Soc. Coll. 1, i (1907), 27-30. 

3 No. 19 in Greg, Bibliography of the English Printed Drama to the Restoration 
(Oxford, 1939), vol. 1. The number of each English play will be given as in that 
work. Titles of plays will be transcribed as they are there recorded except that 
I shall normalize / and /, u and v according to modern usage. Bibliographical 
information will be given only when it seems relevant to this particular study. 



Macropedius, and the Studentes of Stymmelius to have been the 
most influential. I have already written of Palsgrave's English 
'ecphrasis' of Acolastus and also of the knowledge of it in 
England as a performed play, and it will be remembered that 
both Acolastus and Asotus were performed in Trinity College, 
Cambridge. Rebelles and Studentes are not known to have been 
translated into English or produced for English audiences, but 
they seemingly set the precedent for certain English plays in 
presenting the reluctant scholar. As Herford says, 'From the 
" prodigal son " to the dissolute student or the truant schoolboy, 
is not a very difficult step ', and it is a step frequently taken in the 
English plays. 1 

One of the earliest if not the earliest of the prodigal-son plays 
written originally in English is An interlude called lusty Juventus 
lively describing the frailtie of youth: of natur, prone to vyce: by grace 
and good counsayll traynable to vertue by R. Wever 2 (still unidenti- 
fied). It is closely akin to the morality, its characters being 
personified abstractions though actually resembling rather real 
people who exhibit the qualities they represent. It is linked to 
the Biblical story directly when Good Counsaill offers Juventus 
hope for God's mercy : 

The prodigal son, as in Luke we read, 
Which in vicious uving his good doth waste, 
As soon as his living he hath remembered, 
To confess his wretchednesse he was not aghast; 
Wherefore his father lovingly him embrac'd; 
And was right joyful, the text saith plain, 
Because his son was returnen again. 

The quotation comes near the end of the play, however, and 
as we turn to the beginning, the prologue is citing a more 
rigorous pronouncement from Ecclesiasticus : 

An untamed horse will be hard, saith he, 
And a wanton child wilful will be. 

1 Herford, pp. 152-5. 

1 No. 41 (b). Text from John S. Farmer, Early English Dramatists (London, 
T 9 5)> v °l- viii, pp. 1-42. There are three undated eds., this printed by Copland 
and one by Veale have the prayer for the king, that by Awdely has the prayer 
for the queen. I have not considered Thenterlude of Youth (no. 20), sometime 
called a prodigal-son play, since it is a simple morality unconnected with the 
Bible story. 

195 13-2 


Juventus, a wanton * prone to vice ', enters singing his simple 
ditty, one familiar to us in the slightly altered form in which it 
appears in the play of Sir Thomas More: 1 

In a herber green, asleep where as I lay, 

The birds sang sweet in the middes of the day; 

I dreamed fast of mirth and play : 

In youth is pleasure, in youth is pleasure. 

To the youth who would like to follow the minstrels and dance, 
Good Counsaill gives guidance for a more sober life, finding 
his authority in Saint Paul to the Ephesians and Moses in the 
book of Deuteronomy. Juventus starts on a programme of 
continual prayer, aided by Knowledge, who, citing texts 
lavishly, grounds him in good Protestant doctrine. 

At this point 'Sathan the devylP enters in a discouraged 
mood, which is dissipated by Hypocrisie who boasts of what 
he has done by introducing superstition as religion : 

As holy cardinals, holy popes 

Holy fire, holy palm, 
Holy oil, holy cream, 
And holy ashes also; 
Holy brooches, holy rings, 
Holy kneeling, holy censings, 
And a hundred trim- trams mo. 

Disguised as Friendship, he dissuades Juventus from going to 
a preaching and introduces him to Fellowship and Abhomin- 
able Living (called Bess for the occasion). His inexperience in 
whoredom is cleverly suggested as Bess leads him to swearing 
and blasphemy and bawdry. From his degradation he is rescued 
by Good Counsaill and is saved from his consequent despair 
by the entrance of God's Promises and the tale of the prodigal 
son. Thus set on the narrow way which leads to eternal life, he 
offers a lengthy homily to 'All Christian people which be here 
present'. The play closes with the usual call to pray for those 

1 C. F. Tucker Brooke, The Shakespeare Apocrypha (Oxford, 1939), in a footnote 
to The Booke of Sir Thomas More, iv. i. 174, noted that the interlude, The Marriage 
of Wit and Science, there introduced is up to 1. 243 an adaptation of part of Lusty 



in authority, but it must be noted that here it is the king who is 
mentioned in the prayer, a fact which suggests that the play 
was written during the reign of Edward VI though it was 
entered on the Stationers' Register in 1560, and though the 
undated editions which we have clearly date from the reign of 

A Preaty Interlude called, Nice wanton, 1 probably dating also 
from the earlier reign, though the first edition now known is of 
1 5 60, shows a writer taking greater liberties with the prodigal- 
son story and writing a more realistic play. Chambers calls it 
an adaptation of the Rebelles of Macropedius, 2 but the marked 
differences which it shows from that play would indicate only 
a very tenuous connection. There is a prodigal son but also a 
prodigal daughter as well as a good boy who admonishes the 
fatuous mother, here substituted for the father in the Bible 

The title-page contains a poem, the second stanza of which 
embodies the proverb which forms the theme of the play and 
should be remembered particularly because it is again given 
prominence in Jacob and Esau:^ 

Early sharpe, that wyll be thorne, 
Soone yll, that wyll be naught: 
To be naught, better unborne, 
Better unfed, then naughtely taught. 

The Messenger speaks the prologue which embroiders the 
saying of the ' prudent Prince Solomon ', * He that spareth the 
rod, the child doth hate', 4 and summarizes the plot to demon- 
strate its truth : 

By two children brought up wantonly in play. 
Whom the mother doth excuse, when she should chastise; 
They delight in dalliance and mischief alway, 
At last they end their lives in miserable wise. 

1 No. 31. Text from Farmer, Early Eng. Dr. vol. viii, pp. 93-115. In the 
closing speech things is made to rhyme with queens, indicating that kings was the 
original word used. 

1 Med. Stage, vol. n, pp. 223 and 460. 3 See ch. vn, p. 213. 

4 It is to be noted that this reference to Prov. xiii. 24 is present in almost every 
prodigal-son play. 

J 97 


The mother persuaded by worldly shame, 
That she was the cause of their wretched life, 
So pensive, so sorrowful, for their death she became, 
That in despair she would sle herself with a knife. 

Then her son Barnabas (by interpretation 1 
The son of comfort), her ill-purpose do[th] stay, 
By the scriptures he giveth her godly consolation, 
And so concludeth; All these parts will we play. 

The classics intrude in the curiously misnamed mother, 
Xantippe, who beats the good Barnabas when Ismael and 
Dalilah, her 'tender tidlings', complain. They will not go to 
school and just want to have fun. Iniquity leads them into 
bawdry and dice-playing. Xantippe will not heed the warning 
of her neighbour about the manner in which she is bringing 
up her children even when the neighbour quotes Solomon 
on the subject, and the wayward children continue their evil 

With no time interval indicated Dalilah comes in 'ragged, 
her face hid, or disfigured, halting on a staff' . Barnabas com- 
forts her with hope for God's grace if she will confess and 
repent. Ismael is brought before Daniel the judge, the Quest 
pronounces him guilty, and Daniel sentences Iniquity with him 
as his partner in crime. The news is brought to Xantippe of 
Dalilah dead of the pox and Ismael hanged in chains, but she 
is prevented from doing away with herself by the pious Barnabas. 
Both children repented, and Dalilah died thinking she would 
be saved, he says, and he advises his mother to have faith and 
to comfort her husband. He then turns to warn parents to 
chastise their children ' before they be sore infect', and to advise 
children to apply themselves to learning and to obey their 

The play is adorned with a song sung by the children in their 
gay interval and by a song printed at the end without any 
indication where it should be sung. 

'An enterlude for boyes to handle and to passe tyme at 
Christinmas ' was entered on the Stationers' Register in 1 5 69, 
and with considerable uncertainty this interlude has been identi- 

1 Acts iv. 36. 


fied as A pre tie and Mery new Enterlude: called the Disobedient 
Child. 1 The title-page establishes the author as 'Thomas Inge- 
land late Student in Cambridge ', a young man apparently bent 
on exhibiting his classical learning. Only one edition is known, 
probably that published soon after the entry and, though various 
critics have found evidence for its having been written earlier, 2 
it is written with more skill than the other interludes I have so 
far discussed. 

As I have said, the fragment with the characters Pater, Filius, 
Uxor, and Servus indicates a dialogue or interlude stemming 
from a Textor dialogue, and the Disobedient Child evidently is 
an amplification of the Textor dialogue or its earlier English 
adaptation. This later interlude is also interestingly related to 
the play Sir Thomas More, for the prologue opens with the 
eight lines which introduce The Marriage of Wit and Wisdom 
played before More and his guests. Since Witt in that play 
entered with the song ' In youth is pleasure ' with which Lusty 
Juventus made his initial appearance, it seems probable that 
these earlier interludes were still current when Sir Thomas More 
was written. 

The Disobedient Child marks an advance in that its characters 
have a local habitation, and they are made distinct individuals, 
so that we feel they ought to have names. However, all of 
them are given generic names with the single exception of the 
woman-cook, Blanche. She addresses the man-cook as Long- 
tongue, a soubriquet apparently equivalent to the modern loud- 
mouth. The prologue sets the residence of Rich Man, the father 
of the prodigal, in London. 

The Rich Man and his ' wanton son' enter as the prologue 
speaker announces their coming. The father is urging his son 
to go to school, but Son has heard that school is an unpleasant 
place, that masters beat their charges, one boy having died 
from such a beating. Demosthenes and Tully together could 
not persuade him to go to school. Father suggests soldiering, 

1 No. 54. Text from Farmer, Early Eng. Dr. vol. vm, pp. 43-92. See Chambers, 
Eli%. Stage, vol. hi, pp. 350-1. 

* The discussion is based on the line (p. 90), 'Look that ye truly serve the 
king', but as king is used here, it may mean simply ruler. See Farmer, p. 122, 
under the play's title. 



but Son refuses to subject himself to the 'wounds and strokes' 
of that life. In fact, the only thing that interests him is having 
a wife. Father realizes that 'we parents must have a regard / 
Our children in time for to subdue ', that parents must ' thrust 
them alway to school' if they are to be brought 'to honesty, 
virtue and nurture'. Son is obstinate, and Father finally agrees 
to help him if he will just choose his wife wisely. 

As Rich Man goes out, two cooks come in discussing Son's 
wedding, which is to take place on the morrow, he having 
travelled forty miles in the meantime. The bride, so we hear, 
comes from Saint Albans and is a shrew. But then we see the 
lovers. Son's greeting is to 'My darling, my coney, my bird so 
bright of ble ', and their billing and cooing is climaxed by his 
song of many stanzas with the refrain, 

Wherefore let my father spite and spurn, 
My fantasy will never turnl 

Time goes unaccounted for as we hear a priest railing at his 
absent clerk who has not appeared for the wedding, and Rich 
Man explaining his refusal to pay his son's debts and discoursing 
at length on the miseries of marriage, with Ovid as his chief 
authority. Then the young couple enter rejoicing in the pleasures 
of their marriage state, some of which are distinctly non- 
Ovidian, such as going to plays and church together. The 
young man who would not go to school is able to comment on 
Aristotle's Ethics and to instance the example of Pythagoras, 
Socrates, and Crates as married men. His servant announces 
a visitor and as hosts and visitor go out, he remains to give an 
account of their riotous and extravagant living. 

Again there is no accounting for the necessary lapse of time 
as we see the inevitable aftermath with the wife demanding that 
her husband go to work and get some money. She forces him 
out to sell faggots, she makes him carry water and wash clothes, 
she strikes him and knocks him down. She bids him stay in- 
doors as she goes off visiting, and he wishes the devil to go 
with her. And then, as he too leaves the scene, Satan the Devil 
comes on to claim credit for all the evil in the world. He is a 
curious intrusion in this realistic action. 



The play does not follow the Bible story in its ending, for as 
the repentant prodigal returns to his home, his father reminds 
him of what Socrates had to endure from Xantippe and bids 
him go back to his wife and stay there. Only a little help for 
his penury will he get. The fatted calf is not even mentioned, 
but the Perorator comes on to enforce the lesson to both fathers 
and sons that as the twig is bent, so will the bough incline. 
After the usual prayer said with all the players kneeling, there 
comes a song on the Where isnowl pattern, Solomon, Samson, 
Absalom, Jonathan, Caesar, Dives, Tully, and Aristotle being 
listed among those who exemplify the transitoriness of all glory 
and the inevitable end of all as ' meat of worms ' and heaps of 

Misogonus survives only as an imperfect manuscript, 1 but it 
is of particular interest because it develops the prodigal-son 
story into a five-act comedy with considerable dramatic skill. 
It is constructed quite consciously on the accepted classical 
model, its setting Laurentum, its main characters traditional 
types given classical names. But England breaks through with 
the minor characters, with the rustic dialect, with references to 
English story and English customs. It is a strange blend that 

The prologue opens with an invocation to the Muses and 
bears the impress of classical lore in references to ' Pernassus' 
sacred mount', 'Aganippe fount', 'Sir Phoebus', Apollo, and 
'Dame Luna'. It recites adequately the argument of the play, 
the scene Laurentum, and the fortunes of Philogonus : 

In lusty youth a wife he took, a dame of flourishing green, 
Who soon after conceived and brought him forth at once two twins. 
Th'eldest she sent away, whereof her husband did not ween. 
Forthwith she died: at th'other son our comedy begins. 
Through wanton education he began to be contemptuous, 
And sticked not with taunting terms his father to miscall; 
And straightway, in lascivious lust, he waxed so licentious 
That's father he did often vex, and brought him to great thrall. 

1 Text from Farmer, Early Eng. Dr. (1906), vol. x, pp. 135-243. Concerning 
the author see Chambers, E/i%. Stage, vol. iv, pp. 31-2, but G. C. Moore Smith, 
'Misogonus', considers the evidence for its being a Cambridge play, its author 
Anthony Rudd, Times Literary Supplement, 10 July 1930, p. 576. 



By lucky lot, yet at the length, his eldest son he knew; 
And, that he might his comfort be, sent for him in great haste. 
Then, after this, the younger son his life doth lead anew, 
Whereat together all the joy and banquet at the last. 

The play is called a comedy, and it is divided into five acts with 
many scenes. The fifth act is missing from the manuscript, 
however. We can recognize the type characters of ancient 
comedy as they appear in this Roman comedy, for Misogonus 
is a prodigal son but also a braggart warrior engaged in mock 
battles. Orgelus is a servant to Misogonus but also the parasite 
who flatters the braggart. Cacurgus is the fool but also the 
intriguing servant of Latin comedy. Eugonus is the counter- 
part of the dutiful son but also the filius peregrinus. And Alison 
is the obstetrix so necessary to the discovery and recognition 
scene when there is a filius peregrinus. This scene of discovery 
and recognition, which Aristotle advised as the best means of 
effecting the reversal of fortune and the denouement of the 
story, centres about her recognition of the six toes on the right 
foot of the peregrinating son. 

There are other characters that might be found in Roman 
comedy, but certain additions to the persons of the drama 
would scarcely find themselves at home in Laurentum. There 
are Liturgus who keeps the repentant prodigal from despair 
by urging the teachings of Saint Paul, and contrasted with him 
Sir John, the dissolute priest given to dicing and whoring. 
There are the rustics with their traditional rustic speech and 
long-winded disputes, rustics who still cling to the forms of the 
old religion though their masters have accepted the new. The 
fool is sometimes addressed as Will Summer, Misogonus as 
Robin Hood, the old woman servant as Madge Mumblecrust. 
There is a reference to the rising in the north, and in fact, the 
play is strewn with references to places, events, sayings, that 
mark its English origin. Its two songs are sung to tunes familiar 
to English ears. 1 

1 'A song to the tune of Heart's Ease' (pp. 163-4) and 'The Song to the 
tune of Labondolose Hoto' (pp. 193-5) are discussed by Farmer, pp. 377-81. 
He would translate Labondo/ose as 'doleful dumps', La bon' (bonne) do'lo'se 
(douloureuse) hoto (hauteur). 



In spite of all the extraneous elements, the play is clearly in 
the tradition of the prodigal-son drama. Eupelas advises both 
father and son and is a recognizable successor to Eubulus in 
Acolastus. The prodigality of Misogonus is contrasted with the 
sober qualities of his brother. The father recognizes his respon- 
sibility for his erring son in having neglected to have him 
properly schooled and, as the tradition requires, he quotes 
Solomon's wisdom in 'He that spareth the rod hates his child'; 
sings a song to the tune of ' Labondolose ' built on this theme 
and closing with a prayer that the Lord will forgive him and 
help him. The prodigal goes his wanton way but is at last 
repentant and echoes the Biblical account as he cries, 'I have 
sinned in the sight of God and against you, dear father ! most 
grievously'. He is welcomed and forgiven, but the 'joy and 
banquet' promised in the prologue as a symbol of the fatted 
calf is lost to us with the missing fifth act from the manuscript. 
The play is also in the tradition of such dramas in adorning the 
story with more grossness than that of the Roman comedy 
which, according to the theory of the early schoolmasters, it 
was intended to supplant. 

That theory was, however, exhibited in practice in The G/asse 
of Governement* published in 1575, the year in which its author, 
George Gascoigne, had a large part in the writing and pro- 
ducing of the entertainment offered Queen Elizabeth at Kenil- 
worth by Robert, Earl of Leicester. He might, however, have 
well figured as a prodigal son himself, one who after a hectic 
youth turned to writing the most pious of pamphlets. In drama 
he was an experimenter, first with the classics and now with 
a Biblical play. In translating Ariosto's I Suppositi (adapted 
from plays by Plautus and Terence) he had given England its 
first prose comedy, and in translating Dolce's adaptation of 
Euripides' Phoemssae as Jocasta he had experimented with blank- 
verse tragedy. Now, in The G/asse of Governement, he tried his 
hand at a tragi-comedy in prose as well as a Biblical play. The 
title-page explained the dramatic genre in terms differing from 
those used by Grimald and Beze: 'A tragicall Comedie so 

1 No. 68. Text from The Complete Works of George Gascoigne, ed. J. W. Cunliffe 
(Cambridge, 1910), vol. 11, pp. 1-90. 



entituled, bycause therein are handled aswell the rewardes for 
Vertues, as also the punishment for Vices.' The Biblical foun- 
dation of his story was made certain in the prologue : 

A Comedie, I meane for to present, 
No Terence phrase : his tyme and myne are twaine : 
The verse that pleasde a Komaine rashe intent, 
Might well offend the godly Preachers vayne. 
Deformed shewes were then esteemed, muche 
Reformed speeche doth now become us best, 
Mens wordes muste weye and tryed be by touche 
Of Gods owne worde, wherein the truth doth rest. 

In the printed text between prologue and play there is a page 
of pious admonition stating that ' This worke is compiled upon 
these sentences following, set downe by mee C.B.' (who is, 
I take it, the printer C. Baker). 

The classical pattern of five acts divided into scenes is ad- 
hered to in the play. Though these are in prose, the prologue 
and the epilogue as well as the choruses which mark the close 
of the first four acts are in verse. Many of the traditional charac- 
ters of Latin comedy are present: fathers and sons, a school- 
master, a parasite, a harlot and a pandering ' aunt', an intriguing 
servant, and messengers. But there are alien elements: a rois- 
terer, an honest servant, a margrave, and a chorus of four grave 
burghers, the chorus probably being one of the adjuncts of 
tragedy as Gascoigne conceived it. 

The prodigal-son plot 1 is complicated by a doubling of the 
main characters, for there are two fathers and two prodigals 
and two worthy sons and two servants (one bad and one good). 
Though the scene is laid in Antwerp, the characters are given 
classical symbolic names except for Dick Drumme the roisterer, 
Ambidexter the intriguing servant, and Lamia the harlot. 

The two fathers arrange for their four boys to be placed under 
Gnomaticus to be prepared for entrance to the university at 
Douay, and we have a chance to view Elizabethan education 
programmes. The young men of one household explain to their 
new master that they have so far been taught the rules of gram- 

1 Herford was, I think, the first to recognize this as a prodigal-son play, 
pp. 150-2, 158-64. 



mar, the colloquies of Erasmus, the offices of Cicero, and the 
making of verses ; those of the other house have, in addition 
to grammar and versifying, read certain comedies of Terence, 
certain epistles of Cicero, and part of Vergil; they have even 
made a beginning in the Greek grammar. Gnomaticus esteems 
these heathen writers 'yet the true christian must direct his 
steppes by the infallible rule of Gods woord ', and he proposes 
to teach them on that foundation their duty to God, king, 
country, and parents. They have no sooner heard their first 
lecture, however, than by the scheming of the parasite they 
are introduced to Lamia and her aunt Pandarina. The elder sons 
fall into the trap, and the fathers hear from Ambidexter of their 
misdemeanours. The younger sons sample each other's poetry. 
All four, their fathers decide, must go to the university at once. 

Unexplained time has passed before we hear news of them. 
The elder sons are frequenting bordellos and taverns, while the 
younger ones have advanced, one to be secretary to the Pals- 
grave, the other to be a preacher about to go to Geneva. 

Remembering Gascoigne's theory of tragi-comedy, we are 
not surprised that there is nothing of repentance and redemption 
for the sinners in his play. Instead, one prodigal is executed for 
robbery, the other is publicly whipped and exiled from Geneva 
in spite of his brother's pleas. Lamia and her aunt are banished 
by the Margrave after an experience with the 'cucking stool'. 
The parasite and the evil servant are also whipped and sent into 
exile. Thus are the wicked punished and the good rewarded 
according to the demands of the author's literary theory if not 
in accordance with Biblical story and Christian teaching. 

These prodigal-son plays seem directed to the entertainment 
of schoolboys in the same spirit with which The 'London Merchant 
or The History of George Barnwell 'was presented as an annual treat 
for the London apprentices in the eighteenth century, though 
their enjoyment of the constant warnings to parents not to 
spare the rod would seem doubtful. The plays continued to 
influence works of literature other than those directed to school- 
boys, however, Lyly's Euphues being perhaps the most notable. 1 

1 See John Dover Wilson, 'Euphues and the Prodigal Son', The Library, 2nd 
ser.x(i909), pp. 337-61. 



Among the other parables only one seems to have been 
dramatized in England, and its identification is tentative. The 
facts are these. In 1 5 66, Thomas Colwell was given licence to 
print 'a ballet intituled an interlude, The Cruell Detter, by 
Wager'. Certain fragments published by the Malone Society 
have been accepted as fragments of this interlude. 1 If the identi- 
fication is correct, the interlude is based on the parable in the 
eighteenth chapter of Matthew, in which the king forgives a 
great sum to a man who owes much, but revokes his action 
when the man in turn refuses to forgive a debtor who owes only 
a small sum to him. The fragments reveal a scene between 
Rigor, Flateri, and Symulatyon, with Ophiletis entering be- 
wailing the spendthrift ways which have made him debtor to 
King Basileus. The king comes, Pronticus brings Ophiletis 
before him for judgment. There is no forgiveness in the 

Parables are used in sermons incorporated in a few plays, but 
no others were made into English dramas as far as our present 
knowledge goes. Dives appears briefly with Judas in A Moral 
andPitieful Comedie, Intituled, All for Money? but the parable of 
the rich man and Lazarus is not dramatized. In fact, the 
prodigal-son plays are all that we have to represent in England 
the habit of dramatizing the parables which was current on the 
continent. 3 

1 No. 43. The fragments are printed in Mai. Soc. Coll. i, iv and v, pp. 315-23, 
and 11, ii, pp. 142-4. See Chambers, Eli%. Stage, vol. in, p. 505. On the identity 
of the author, 'Wager', see Greg's account of the confusion concerning Lewis 
and ' William ' Wager, Mai. Soc. Coll. 1, iv and v, pp. 3 24-7. See also L. M. Oliver, 
'William Wager and the Trial of Treasure', Huntington Library Quarterly (1946), 
ix, 419-29. 

1 No. 72. 

3 Extensive accounts of the continental prodigal-son plays can be found in 
H. Holstein, Das Drama vom > e rlornen Sohn (Halle, 1880) and Fran2 Spengler, 
Der verlorene Sohn im Drama des XVI. Jahrhunderts (Innsbruck, 1888). See also 
the prefaces to his editions of Acolastus (Berlin, 1891) and Rebelles and Aluta 
(Berlin, 1897). Plays on other parables will be found in the comprehensive work 
of Lebegue so often cited in these pages. 




The sixteenth-century prodigal-son plays are so clearly 
intended for the admonition of schoolboys and the 
justification of parental discipline that it seems safe to 
assume that they were not intended to go far beyond the con- 
fines of the schoolroom. There are, however, a number of plays 
which have come down to us that cannot so easily be presumed 
to have been performed under any particular set of circum- 
stances, though by reason of form or content they seem fitted 
for private rather than public performance. We know that 
plays other than those dealing with the prodigal son were 
performed in English schools, that plays in English were not 
unknown in the universities, that they were performed in the 
royal palaces, in great houses, and in some humbler settings. 
But where particular plays were produced remains a matter of 
conjecture. Geoffrey Fenton wished that "in place of Daunses 
at mariage, the time were supplied with some comical or 
historical show of the auncient Manages of Abraham and Sara, 
of Isaac and Rebecca, and of the two Tobies, and theyr Wives, 
matters honest and tending much to edifye the assistauntes', 1 
but the only record of a Bible play so used is one Halliwell 
accepted on Collier's authority of ' Jube the sane ' as a play on 
Job performed at the wedding of Lord Strange and the daughter 
of the Earl of Cumberland in the time of Edward VI, 2 and I 
doubt whether even to Fenton a play on Job would have 
seemed desirable under those circumstances. It is, in fact, only 
internal evidence which can be summoned to mark these plays 
as intended for restricted audiences. 

One of the plays that seem directed to the limited audience 
who might share the current interest in mental games and 

1 A Forme of Christian Po/lide, pp. 140-1. 

* James O. Halliwell, A Dictionary of Old English Plays (London, i860), p. 133. 
See Chambers, Eli^. Stage, vol. in, p. 330. 



rhetorical prowess was A newe enterlude drawen oute of the holy 
scripture of godly queene Hester ■, said to have been ' newly made and 
imprinted this present yere', which was 1561. 1 It is con- 
spicuously lacking in dramatic skill : there is no account of the 
preceding events which motivate the action, and the characters 
come successively upon the stage with no interval to mark a 
change of scene or the passing of time. The bare outline of the 
Bible story is preserved, to be filled out with quite anachronistic 
material. King Assuerus chooses Aman as his chancellor. He 
selects Hester from all the beautiful maidens in c this region 
universair to be his bride, and she is able to save her people 
from the destruction which Aman devises for them. Aman is 
hanged on the gallows prepared for her uncle Mardocheus, and 
the Jews are permitted again to live their lives under their own 
laws. This framework serves to give opportunity for introdu- 
cing a debat and two orations which have no part in the original 
story, and new characters seemingly intended as a political 

The prologue is used to pose the question for the debat. The 
king then as the play opens asks his council to discuss the 
question, 'Which is most worthy honoure to attayne'. Each 
of the three gentlemen argues the respective claims of high 
birth, riches, power, wisdom, and virtue. Justice is acclaimed 
as the chief virtue necessary to a prince, and the king adds 
truth to this qualification. It is a typical Renaissance debat with 
the question formally proposed and discussed, and the decision 

Assuerus chooses Hester for his wife but sets out his speci- 
fications for a queen, demanding that she 

Some what to prove by communication 
Her lernynge and her language eloquent 
And by some problem of hye dubitation, 
To knowe her aunswere and consultation, 

whereupon she proceeds to deliver a lengthy oration on the 
duties of a queen, who must needs have kingly qualities since 
she may be called upon to advise him and to rule in his stead 
if he and his council are at war. Kingly qualities will prevent 

1 No. 33. Text from Materialen, ed. W. W. Greg, vol. v (Louvain, 1904). 



treason, will see that the kingdom is kept rich and strong, that 
wealth is distributed justly. Aman later delivers another speech 
full of flattery for the wise rule Assuerus has given his people 
and of gratitude for his own rise to high estate, but leading up 
to a bitter denunciation of the Jews and a demand that they all 
be slain. The king commends his ' oration which is so elegante', 
and accedes to his demand. The formal debat and the two 
'elegant' orations are ornaments that would certainly have 
pleased both in form and content an audience which took 
delight in books like Castiglione's Courtier and the orations 
which graced special occasions. 

New characters as well as exhibitions of rhetorical agility 
were introduced into the Biblical story. Hardydardy is the 
court fool with liberty to blow on whom he pleases. Pride, 
Ambition, and Adulation are not personified abstractions but 
characters who claim to have given their qualities to Aman, 
leaving none for themselves. Each makes specific charges 
against Aman that are not remotely suggested in the Bible, so 
that critics have recognized in the play a political mirror 
offering to its own time an image confirming the old saw 
quoted by Hester, 'The higher they climb the deeper they fall'. 
Hester in the Bible did not prepare to rule in the king's absence 
in the wars, Aman was not accused of corrupting the law, of 
making it possible for the clergy to gain preferment not by 
preaching but by flattery, of weakening the fabric of the state 
so that if war should come with Scotland or France, ' Thys 
geare would not go ryght'; nor did Aman complain to the 
king that nobles and commons alike spread malicious rumours 
about him. These and similar departures from Biblical history 
seem to be accounted for if the writer was describing Wolsey 
in the person of Aman, for the charges against Aman were 
those directed against Wolsey. Greg argues, then, that the 
play must have been written before 1530, before Wolsey 's 
fall and death, 'against abuses actually existent at the time of 
writing'. To me it seems that the writer must have been re- 
markably prescient and amazingly careless for his own head if 
he had presented a play recognizably depicting Wolsey's fall 
while Wolsey was in power. However, what is important to 

14 209 CDP 


this study is the fact that the play clearly used Bible history to 
inculcate Tudor political ideas in the dialogue and orations, and 
to mirror events of the sixteenth century in ancient story. 

At one point in the play Hester calls for a hymn, and the 
marginal stage direction obliges with 'than the chappell do 
singe'. Elsewhere Pride, Adulation, and Ambition are called 
upon to sing, so that the participation of a chapel choir is 
indicated; but there is no evidence upon which to base further 
conjecture as to the time and place of the performance of the 
play. 1 

Another debat which must have had its appeal to those who 
took delight in the formal dialogue and the set speech is in- 
cluded in the play which was described on the title-page as 
A Pretie new interlude both pithie & pleasaunt of the Story of 
Kyng Daryus, Beinge taken out of the third and fourth Chapter of the 
thyrd booke of Esdras. 2 Entered and printed in 1565, it had a 
second edition in 1 5 77. 

The ancient story in the apocryphal books of Esdras is of the 
king who made a great feast. After his royal guests had de- 
parted, he slept, and his three bodyguards decided each to write 
a sentence to test his wisdom, arguing whether the greatest 
strength was to be found in wine, in the king, or in a woman. 
They sealed their sentences and put them under the king's pillow, 
and when he awoke each argued his case. Darius gave the 
award to Zorobabell, who had argued that the power of a 
woman could conquer a king since the concubine Apame had 
conquered their king. Darius had promised the winner what- 
ever he asked for, and Zorobabell demanded that Jerusalem be 
rebuilt and the temple restored. 

Though the 'Prolocutor' indicated something of the story 
which was to follow, actually the first part of the interlude is 
taken up by long preachments (with a large strewing of Bible 
texts) by Charity and Equity, interrupted by scoffing comments 

1 An account of the various attributions of authorship is given by Farmer, 
Early Eng. Dr. (1906), vol. x, pp. 434-7. Mrs C. C. Stopes repeated her argu- 
ments for Hunnis as author in William Hunnis and the Revels of the Chapel Royal, 
Materialen, vol. xxix (1910), p. 265. Chambers discusses the mention of a traverse 
in the play, Eli%. Stage, vol. Ill, pp. 25-6. 

a No. 40. Text from Farmer, Early Eng. Dr. (1906), vol. xi, pp. 41-92. 



from Iniquity, the vice, and his companions, who also obligingly 
sing a few stanzas of warning to those who may without heed 
fall into the traps they set. 

At last Darius appears ordering his servants Agreeable and 
Preparatus to prepare a feast as Cuiiosity joins them. They 
immediately see a great crowd approaching. Four kings greet 
Darius, are seated, eat, give thanks, and depart in the space of 
some fifty-odd lines. Iniquity returns singing, his former com- 
panions rejoin him, and Charity, Constancy, and Equity come 
to take up the old bickering with him but leave with a hymn of 
praise just as Darius returns to the scene. 

The basic Bible story comes at the end of the play, and there 
it is complicated by two additional characters who set forth the 
terms of the award and the question to be argued. The three 
contestants make formal speeches. Zorobabell is judged the 
victor and asks for rewards only slightly less overwhelming than 
those he claimed in the First Book of Esdras, making another 
formal speech. Constancy comes, ' saying as it were a Sublo- 
cutio ' to point a moral. Charity and Equity join her to pray for 
queen and council and to sing a sacred song. The chapter in 
Esdras must have seemed a golden opportunity to those who 
took their pleasure in wit combats and the rhetorical arts. 

After these interludes oriented toward literary ' kinds', the 
debat and the oration, it is a welcome change to come upon 
a play that is fundamentally dramatic and written with skill and 
charm. Entered on the Stationers' Register in 1557 but not 
printed so far as is known until 1568 was A newe mery and wit tie 
Comedie or Hnterlude, newely imprinted, treating upon the Historie of 
Jacob and Esau, taken out of the .xxvii. Chap, of the first booke of 
Moses entituled Genesis. 1 The title-page gives the further infor- 
mation that the characters ' are to be consydered to be Hebrews 
and so should be apparailed with attire', an unusual direction. 
It should be noted too that the play is called both an interlude 
and a comedy. As a matter of fact, it represents the fusing of 
three traditions: (1) the Bible play to be written without im- 
morality and to serve as a proper vehicle for sound doctrine; 
(2) Latin comedy, a model for the techniques of structure and 

1 No. 51. Text from ibid. vol. x, pp. 1-90. 

211 14-2 


staging; (3) the prodigal-son play, a pattern of the good and 
the naughty sons with the subordinate theme of parental 

The Bible story is preserved intact, embodying, however, 
parts of Chapters xxv and xxviii as well as Chapter xxvn of 
Genesis. The promised mirth and wit are added as is the good 
instruction on theology and education. 

The prologue and epilogue, the five acts subdivided into 
scenes, the classification as a comedy, all mark the classical 
influence. The tents are placed about an open space, all the 
action taking place out of doors. Rebecca summons Jacob to 
'come forth' so that she can speak to him secretly. Characters 
are directed to enter or come out of the tents. What happens 
indoors, such as Esau's eating of the pottage, is told by a 
recital. Rebecca conceals herself to overhear the conversation 
between Isaac and Esau. The main characters are described 
before they come on the scene, and even the minor characters 
are identified by name and the classical sort of here-he-comes 

The prologue serves also the purpose of the classical argu- 
ment, and the five acts are built up as in Latin comedy. The 
first act introduces the characters and explains the existing 
situation: in spite of Rebecca's pleas for Jacob, Isaac is deter- 
mined that Esau shall have his rightful inheritance as the elder 
son. In the second act Esau, faint from hunger after his un- 
successful hunting expedition, sells his birthright. In the third 
act Rebecca overhears Isaac promising Esau his blessing when 
he has fetched and cooked a mess of venison. In 'Actus 
Quarti ' Rebecca plots and executes the device by which Jacob, 
his neck and arms covered with the skin of the kids which he 
serves to the blind Isaac for venison, wins his father's blessing. 
The fifth act finds Esau desiring vengeance but putting on the 
pretence of being reconciled as Jacob is sent away to find safety 
and to secure a wife under Laban's protection. It is a well- 
constructed plot. 

It is in the portrayal of the characters of the play, however, 
that the dramatist shows most skill and gives interest and 
charm to the play. Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Esau play their 



Biblical roles, and Isaac and Jacob are respectfully portrayed 
with only variations upon the historic account. The minor 
characters added to the story come alive on the stage as real 
people: Ragau, a typical ingenious servant; Debora, ' the nurse 
of Isaacs Tente ' ; Mido, a little boy who leads the blind Isaac 
about; and a very intriguing little wench, Abra, who serves 
Rebecca. There are also two gossiping neighbours. Ragau 
serves his master but mocks him in his absence and outwits 
him, managing to get a portion of the pottage which Esau has 
denied him: 

My mother taught me that lesson a good while agone. 
When I came to Jacob, his friendship to require, 
I drew near and near till I came to the fire: 
There hard beside me stood the pottage-pot, 
Even as God would have it, neither cold not hot; 
Good simple Jacob could not turn his back so thick, 
But I at the ladle got a gulp or a lick; 
So that, ere I went, I made a very good meal, 
And din'd better cheap than Esau a good deal. [n. iii.] 

The little boy Mido is a talented mimic, whether showing just 
how the blind man gropes his way along or imitating Esau 
licking the pot from which he has wolfed all the pottage that 
purchased his birthright. The little Abra is an obedient child, 
gathering thyme and parsley and borage and other good English 
herbs for the Hebrew tribesman's 'broth and farcing' and 
sweeping ' with a broom ' while she sings her song of 

It hath been a proverb, before I was born, 
Youth doth it prick, that will be a thorn, [iv. iv.] 

It will be remembered that Abra's song is developed about 
the same proverb which was used in the poem printed on the 
title-page of Nice Wanton and furnished the theme of that play. 
There are other indications of the influence of the prodigal-son 
tradition in this play, however. The two sons of Isaac and 
Rebecca represent the typical prodigal and the good boy. Esau 
is wild and rude, cares only for hunting, and takes no heed to 
the comfort of others. He speaks to his ' three greyhounds, or 
one, as may be gotten' more kindly than to his servant or his 
brother. He gets up before dawn and wakes his parents and 



their neighbours with his horn. Faint from hunger, he sells his 
birthright for a mess of red pottage and then, 'wiping his 
mouth' after gorging his meal, he refuses to listen to Ragau 
who has shared his hardships. The two neighbours discuss the 
boys and take the place of Eulalia, the neighbour in Nice 
Wanton who advises the mother of the two prodigals in that 
play. One of the neighbours here is full of complaints and 
wonders that ' old father Isaac, / Being so godly a man, why he 
is so slack / To bring his son Esau to a better stay'. The other 
protests that Isaac must have been a good father, and that he 
and his wife have set a good example 

As by their younger son Jacob it doth appear. 
He liveth no loose life : he doth God love and fear. 
He keepeth here in the tents, like a quiet man : 
He giveth not himself to wildness any when. 
But Esau evermore from his young childhood 
Hath been like to prove ill, and never to be good. 

Then he too quotes the key proverb : 

Young it pricketh (folks do say), that will be a thorn, 
Esau hath been naught, ever since he was born. 

With this consolation to the good fathers of bad sons they 
lament in the fashion of all prodigal-son plays the future of 
youths that will follow none but their own bridle [i. ii.]. 

The play demonstrates the workings of predestination and 
the necessity for faith and obedience to God's will. Rebecca 
and Isaac have a realistic dispute over their sons, and Rebecca 
exerts all of woman's wiles in her partisanship for Jacob, but 
Jacob himself will not connive at the deception his mother 
proposes until he is convinced that she advises him as God has 
decreed : 

It shall become me to show mine obedience, 

And to thy promise, O Lord, to give due credence. 1 

Esau's acceptance of his supplanting is not strictly Biblical, for 
he seems to intend to forgive and forget while he qualifies his 
' gentle part ' in an aside to his servant : 

It must now be thus; but when I shall Jacob find, 
I shall then do as God shall put into my mind. 
1 In i. iii, iv, i, and iv. vii. 



Isaac calls upon all his household to ' with one voice sing unto 
the Lord', and after the hymn, 1 the Poet enters to justify the 
ways of God to men in predestining some to be saved and 
others damned, urging all to be worthy to be among the 
elect. His speech is a setting-forth of the harsh Calvinistic 

Isaac and Rebecca and Jacob and Esau in turn pray for the 
clergy, the queen, her councillors, and the nobility. Since the 
play was entered in 1557, the only queen for whom this prayer 
could have been invoked was Queen Mary, and the question 
therefore arises whether it could have been played or printed 
during her reign. Changes may have been made in it before 
its 1568 printing, but the choice of the story for dramatization 
would seem to indicate a Protestant author. Bang thought the 
author was Nicholas Udall, Wallace insisted that it was his, and 
Chambers accepts his authorship as 'plausible'. Other sugges- 
tions have been offered that are less plausible, it seems to me, 
and we can only wish that Udall's play on E^echias had survived 
its Cambridge performance so that we might observe in it 
Udall's way of handling scriptural story. 2 

In 1 5 66-7, almost ten years after the entry for Jacob and Esau, 
a play was entered on the Register which evidenced much less 
skill in the writing. The title-page, however, proclaims the 
author, Lewis Wager, to be a 'learned clarke' and anticipates 
the modern blurb in announcing A new Enterlude, never before 
this tyme imprinted, entreating of the Life and Repentaunce of Marie 
Magdalene: not only godlie, learned and fruitefull, but also well fur- 
nished with pleasaunt myrth and pastime, very delectable for those which 
shall heare or reade the same 3' Little is known of the 'learned 
clarke' except that he was made rector of St James, Garlick- 
hithe, in 1 5 60. In 1 5 66 also, it will be remembered, there was 
entered 'a ballet intituled an interlude the Cruell Detter by 
Wager ', but since a W. Wager was writing interludes at this 
time, it can with no certainty be ascribed to either Wager. 
That Lewis Wager was a university man is suggested by his 

1 The three songs in the play are found in ir. iv, iv. iv, and v. x. 

2 Chambers, E/i%. Stage, vol. iv, p. 22. See above, pp. 189-90. 

3 No. 47. Text from Frederick I. Carpenter, ed. (Chicago, 1902). 



being called a learned clerk and by his clerical appointment. 1 
The frequent interpolation of Latin quotations from the classics 
reinforces this suggestion as does the defence of the acting of 
plays in the prologue : 

I marvell why they should detract our facultie : 
We have ridden and gone many sundry waies; 
Yea, we have used this feate at the universitie; 
Yet neither wise nor learned would it dispraise: 
But it hath ben perceived ever before our dayes 
That foles love nothing worse than foles to be called! 
A horse will kick if you touch where he is galled! 

Doth not our facultie learnedly extoll vertue? 

Doth it not teache God to be praised above all things? 

What facultie doth vice more earnestly subdue? 

Doth it not teache true obedience to the kynge? 

What godly sentences to the mynde doth it brynge? 

I saie, there was never thyng invented 

More worthe for man's solace to be frequented. 

That the play was, nevertheless, offered on occasion to some 
sort of paying audience is indicated: 

Truely, I say, whether you geve halfpence or pence, 
Your gayne shalbe double, before you depart hence. 

Pleading the worth of wisdom to be gained from this story 
' Written in the .vii. of Luke with wordes playne' and rehearsed 
by 'Doctours of high learnyng' as well as by Mark and Luke, 
the prologue announces the 'godly mirth' which is to follow. 
Like other editors of sixteenth-century Scriptural plays, 
Frederick Ives Carpenter was bothered about the genre of this 
play and finally described it as * essentially a biblical play in a 
morality setting, or a biblical morality-play ' without recogniz- 
ing the existence of the new divine literature of which the 
Biblical drama was a part. Its close alliance with the morality 
is evident in its labelling of Iniquitie as the vice and in the 
predominance of personified abstractions as 'players'. The 
leading characters, however, come from Bible story: Marie, 

1 Chambers, Eli^. Stage, vol. in, pp. 503-4. Carpenter discusses the sources 
for the play, pp. xxvii-xxxiii. On the difficulties in identifying the Wagers see 
above, n. 1, p. 206. 



Simon the Pharisee, and Christ. Furthermore, the plot is not 
an allegory but follows the historical narrative. 

There is a deal of theological exegesis, but Marie Magdalene 
is a lively play in spite of it, and the mirth is not always as 
godly as the prologue would have us expect. Perhaps the 
author considered the parody of phrases from Catholic services 
in Infidelitie's opening speech godly mirth, but the amount of 
quite secular hugging and kissing prescribed in the stage 
directions is striking and unusual. 

The play begins with Infidelitie shouting his mocking scraps 
of Latin, announcing that ' In Jurie, Moysaicall Justice is my 
name', and boasting of his plans to thwart the purpose of 
Christ, who has lately come into the country. Mary enters 
'triflyng with her garments' and complaining about her 
bungling tailor. Infidelitie sympathizes with her and flatters 
her ' so tender and yong', kisses her, and promises to introduce 
her to friends who will give her the good time that is her due. 
The whole crew of tempting sins under the assumed names of 
virtues surround her with advice as to how to lift up her head, 
roll her eyes, curl her hair with a hot needle, dye her hair yellow, 
paint her face, dress elegantly with a showing of her breasts, 
and establish a small waist. They also advise her to boast of 
her wealth and her family, choose lovers young and gay, and 
add to her own wealth. She acknowledges her skill on the 
virginals, the regals, and the recorder, and Infidelitie leads them 
in a song of ' Hey dery, dery ' which manages to compare her 
with Lais and Thais and Helen. The tempters take their de- 
parture with kisses, and Mary and Infidelitie after more fondling 
start for Jerusalem. 

Simon and Malicious Judgement enter, discussing the Christ 
whom Simon plots to invite to dinner and to examine curiously. 
Infidelitie comes to explain the mischief he is creating, and when 
he is alone, Mary enters pursuing him. Now the Law of God, 
Knowlege of Sin, and finally Christ enter to perform the work 
of regeneration. After Christ has cast out Infidelitie and the 
seven devils that have possessed her, 'Mary falleth flat downe' 
and the devils ' Cry all thus without the doore, and roare teribly ' 
[1. 1285]. (The stage directions do not adequately explain how 



all this is effected.) As Mary prays for help, Faith and Repen- 
tance come to her aid, instructing her in the way of salvation. 
Again Simon and Malicious judgement enter as Christ is 
left alone on the stage. They greet Christ, and Simon extends 
his dinner invitation. Infidelitie joins them as they walk in the 
garden and manages to talk with Malicious Judgement in 
apparent secrecy. Without stage directions they are at Simon's 
table, but Christ will not sit down until he has said grace. 
Christ speaks good doctrine, and Mary comes, repenting at 
great length. She creeps under the table and she is directed to 
abide there ' a certayne space behynd, and doe as it is specified 
in the GospelP. The others scoff while Mary anoints Christ's 
feet with precious ointment and washes them with her tears, 
but Christ rebukes the scoffers, telling them that ' many sinnes 
are forgiven hir, bicause she loved muche'. Mary can rejoice 
that no sinner need despair, but Simon and Malicious Judge- 
ment plan the complaints against Christ which will bring him 
to justice under the law he defies even as they hurry off to the 
evening service and their sacrificial offering. Mary tells her 
story to Justification, Justification expounds its significance, 
and Love enters to complete the exegesis : 

By the word came faith; Faith brought penitence; 
But bothe the gyft of God's magnificence. 
Thus by Faith onely Marie was justified, 
Like as before it is playnly verified : 
From thens came love, as a testification 
Of God's mercy and her justification. 

The usual prayer for the sovereign is not added, the audience 
being dismissed with Mary's hope for a happy reunion at the 
last day. 

In connection with the next play to be considered the 
question again arises as to what was the relation between a 
* ballet' and a play. It will be remembered that in 1 5 66 Thomas 
Colwell was given a licence to print ' a ballet intituled an inter- 
lude, the Cruell Better, by Wager', and the play of The Cruel 
Debtor was apparently published. In 1563 Colwell was paying 
for his licence to print certain 'balletts', one of which was 'the 



godly & constante Susanna', and in 1568-9 he was paying for 
his licence to print the 'playe of Susanna'. Whether the permits 
were for the same work, therefore, remains a conjecture. 
Apparently he did not himself print the play, for Hugh Jackson, 
who had married Colwell's widow and succeeded him in his 
printing-house, was seemingly telling the truth when in 1578 
the title-page of the play announced The Commody of the moste 
vertuous and Godly e Suss anna, never before this tyme Printed. 1 The 
title-page said it was compiled by Thomas Garter, who seems 
to have no recorded history, though a Bernard Garter was 
writing about this time. Whoever or whatever he was, Thomas 
Garter writes like an academic fledgling, youthfully awkward 
about indecencies and proud of his undigested learning. 

Susanna is printed as a comedy rather than an interlude, 
probably because the term interlude was less popular by 1578. 
Like Marie Magdalene it is not divided into acts and scenes, and 
with its numerous personified characters introduced into the 
Bible story it resembles that play, though it is less skilfully 
written. The dramatis personae in Susanna are sometimes con- 
fusingly identified, presumably because, as was a common 
practice, the writer gave several parts to one actor. This is his 
arrangement : 

1. The Prologue and the Gaylour for one. 

2. Joachim and Judex for another, 

3. Sathan and Voluptas another, 

4. Sensualitas alone. 

5. Susanna alone. 

6. Helchia, True Report, Ancilla, another, 

7. Ill Reporte the Vyce, and Cryer, another. 

8. Helchias wyfe, Danyell, Servus, Serva, for another. 

The would-be dramatist does all the usual things in his pro- 
logue: he starts with a Latin quotation, refers familiarly to 
'Bullus Tully', notes that the story is true as well as good, 
rehearses the argument, urges it be used as a mirror, gives God 
praise, and finally asks for silence as he points to the entering 

1 No. 76.5. Since a copy of the play was not discovered until 1936, the 
description was added on p. xxii of the Greg Bibliography. Text from Mai. Soc. 
Reprints, vol. lxxvi (Oxford, 1936 [1937]), eds. B. Ifor Evans and W. W. Greg. 



Sathan. He is self-conscious about the bits of obscenity in his 

And though perchaunce some wanton worde, doe passe which may 

not seeme 
Or gestures light not meete for this, your wisedomes may it deeme 
Accoumpt that nought delightes the hart of men on earth, 
So much as matters grave and sad, if they be mixt with myrth, 
Of both which here I trust you shall, as in a myrrour see, 
And that in such a decent sort as hurtfull shall not be. 

The plot, as is apparent from the list of characters, is more 
complicated than in the Bible account. Devill, as he is called 
after the prologue, summons 111 Reporte to effect the destruc- 
tion of Susanna, the fair wife of Joachim, for she has refused 
the lure of pride, gluttony, envy, sloth, and covetousness. 
Ill Reporte suggests that they try lust, and when she yields, he 
will be able to blow the trumpet of slander and please his 
Satanic 'Dad'. Voluptas joins him and calls in a downcast 
Sensualitas, whose secret sorrow 111 Reporte diagnoses at once, 
quoting Amor vtncit omnia. He speaks words that show the 
author fresh from reading a book of moral philosophy — any 
book of the time : 

Love hath a pleasure in it selfe, yet love is full of feare, 

Love helpes and it doth harme a man, love is not this good geare, 

Love from the Sences of a man, can steale away the might, 

Love can make mad the mynde of man, and love can blynde the 

But is not he a jolly man that love can so subdue, 
As he can lose it when he list, and it agayne renue. 

After 111 Reporte receives an advance payment from the rascals, 
the Bible characters begin to appear. 

First comes Joachim, a man of God, always praying. Then 
the judges appear (identified in the margin as Voluptas and 
Sensualitas), then Susanna with whom they become enamoured. 
Susanna goes to the orchard ' her to wash, which is a wholesome 
thing'. Voluptas and Sensualitas come from their hiding places 
to ravish her but are repelled. The servants who answer her 
cries for help are met by the 'judges', who carry her off, 
accusing her of being a 'secrete whore'. The servant prays for 



her, and True Report somehow is there to speak in her defence 
and prophesy the doom that will befall the judges. Susanna's 
parents appear to mourn her fate. Court is convened with 
' Gaylour ' {nee Prologue) and 111 Reporte to shout the ' O yes ' 
which summons attendance. Susanna stands forth as the 
accused, and the judges, duly sworn on the book, recite their 
evidence. Susanna prays, Judex condemns her to death, she is 
led forth to her execution, 'and God rayseth the spirite of 
Danyeir. Judex convenes the court again, and Danyell refutes 
the testimony of the liars by questioning them separately and 
showing that their stories are in conflict. Judex sentences them 
to be stoned to death. They are allowed to pray for mercy 
rather than justice but are stoned after being bound to a stake. 
Ill Reporte lets a stone fall on Bayly's (or Gaylour's) foot, and 
they fight for a bit. 

Ill Reporte, in the gown of one of the dead judges, meets 
Servus and True Report, and the cousins engage in an academic 
battle over what the altering of a letter in a word can do, over 
' aphaeresis' and ' appocope\ and over similar matters. True 
Report has evidently been at Oxford, and his cousin 111 has 
been there a year himself 'fast tyed by the legge'. Gaylour 
comes on to lead 111 off to be hanged, the rope already about his 
neck. The Devill bemoans the outcome, thinks that God still 
does him wrong and takes off for his 'infernal lake'. All the 
righteous characters unite in thanking God for his mercy. The 
prologue apologizes for the lack of music in the play, but hopes 
the author will be encouraged to write another. As in Marie 
Magdalene, the usual prayer for the queen is noticeably absent, 
but the prologue expresses a final desire to give God the praise 
for whatever is good in this play and a hope that all will be 
granted eternal life. 

It is a crudely written drama, and the confused identity of 
the speakers, the careless shifting of speakers, with the stoning 
to death of the judges on the stage would suggest that it may 
never have been played. Yet the author has made some attempts 
at giving his characters reality. The judges invoke the help of 
Venus and Cupid and the heathen gods in their wicked designs. 
There is a semblance of life in the dialogue when Joachim is 



late for dinner, when Susanna's maids talk about life at court 
in contrast with what in their country homes they had imagined 
it to be, and when the Report cousins engage in their pseudo- 
linguistic and rhetorical quibbling. But Thomas Garter does 
not seem to have met with the hoped-for demand that he 
continue his career. 1 

1 Chambers, EIi%. Stage \ vol. iv, pp. 398-404, lists among the lost plays three 
Bible plays in addition to the play on Job ascribed to Greene and Susanna, since 
recovered: 'Joseph's Afflictions, An interlude in the lists of Archer and Kirkman'; 
' Nineveh's Kepentance. An interlude in Rogers and Ley's and Archer's lists ' ; and 
* The Two Sins of King David. S.R. 1 561-2. "An new enterlude of the ii synnes of 
Kynge Davyd".' 





he common people as well as the more privileged 
classes were to have a new scriptural drama in the six- 

JL teenth century, but the new drama was not the first 
based on Bible stories which they had known. In England and 
on the continent, there had been a traditional Christian drama 
originating in the liturgy of the church itself. It had been a 
drama which in spite of ' the reverent intention of the clerics 
who composed and performed the plays', 1 in the words of 
Karl Young, yet included plays which appear to have been com- 
posed ' in a spirit of literary and dramatic independence, and 
to have been attached to the liturgy as appendages, rather than 
as intimate accompaniments of central acts of worship'. 2 The 
Council of Trent had finally to decide to do away with the 
modifications and additions to the older rites of the church, and 
thereafter the liturgical plays were not to be found in the service 
books of the church, though there were a few lingering local 
survivals. 3 

In England the religious drama moved out of the church 
service, out of the church, out of the churchyard, and away 
from ecclesiastical control. It became a vernacular drama. 
Nevertheless, it continued to declare its essential purpose of 
strengthening the faith of the devout and educating others in 
Christian story and Christian doctrine. But the secular control 
of the plays introduced another element well shown in the old 
record of Chester : 

of old tyme not only for the Augmentacion & increase of the holy 
andcatholyk ffaith of our savyor cryst Jehsu and to exhort the myndes 
of the comen peple to gud devocion and holsom doctryne therof 
but Also for the comen welth and prosperitie of this Citie A play 
and declaration of many and dyvers stories of the bible begynnyng 

1 The Drama of the Medieval Church (Oxford, 1933), vol. 11, p. 410. 
a Ibid. p. 399. 3 Ibid. p. 421 and n. 2. 



with the creation and fall of lucifer & endyng with the gen'rall 
Judgement of the world to be declared & playde now in this whison 
weke x 

This desire to make the miracles serve also for the common 
wealth and prosperity of the city required that they be adapted 
to the taste and talents of the fellow-townsmen who served 
as actors and audience. Comedy and other extraneous elements 
were added, so that they became entertainment and furnished 
grounds for criticism as being irreverent. 

Opposition had, however, been of long standing on other 
grounds. Perhaps the nature of the opposition can best be 
illustrated by what Young calls ' the most careful and energetic 
challenge to the religious drama uttered during the Middle 
Ages \ z the WyclifEte Tretise of Miraclis Pleymge, which pro- 
phetically introduced most of the arguments elaborated and 
endlessly repeated in later centuries. Those who favour such 
representations, the treatise says, contend that they are part of 
man's worship of God; that they often convert men to good 
living; that by the sight of the sufferings of Christ and the saints 
men are moved to tears; that some men can be reached only 
by 'gamen and pley'; that human nature requires recreation; 
and that, since the miracles of Christ and the saints may be 
delineated in painting, they may appropriately be imitated also 
in action. 

To such defenders of the playing of miracle plays the author 
answers that the actors are concerned rather to please men than 
God ; that the miracles by making play out of earnest take the 
name of God in vain; that those who are not converted by the 
sacraments of the church will not be converted by plays ; that 
the recreation of Christians should be found in doing works of 
mercy and in Christian fellowship; that plays delight rather 
than teach and are not like religious pictures and religious books, 
which are concerned only with telling the plain truth plainly. 

The miracles had not, of course, been the only type of play 
known in the earlier periods in England. The morality had held 

1 W. W. Greg, 'The Lists and Banns of the Plays', Chester Play Studies, 
Malone Society (1935), p. 132. 

2 Young, p. 415. Chambers, Med. Stage, vol. 11, pp. 102-3. 



a second place, but an important one. With its allegorical plot 
and personified abstractions or generalized characters such as 
Everyman it continued to exercise an influence on all dramatic 
writing. It was performed before both private and public 

In spite of opposition the playing of miracles and moralities 
continued even in Shakespeare's day, but a new drama which 
arose under the impetus of the revived knowledge of the ancient 
classical drama gradually displaced the older dramatic types. 
This new humanistic drama aroused a reaction against its in- 
herent secularism and paganism, and I have tried to show the 
course of the movement to create a new scriptural drama to 
oppose to it as that movement spread from the continent to 
English schools and universities and select circles. The masses 
naturally desired to enjoy what the more privileged were en- 
joying, and their enthusiasm for all dramatic entertainment 
reached such excess that in 1 5 42 Bishop Bonner felt called upon 
to send his clergy restrictive injunctions : 

That no parsons, vicars, ne curates, permit or suffer any manner of 
common plays, games, or interludes, to be played, set forth, or 
declared within their churches, or chapels, where the blessed sacra- 
ment of the altar is, or any other sacrament ministered, or divine 
service said or sung; because they be places constitute and ordained 
to well disposed people for godly prayer, or wholesome consolation. 1 

It must be noted that interludes are specifically mentioned, for 
as I have recorded in an earlier chapter, the new plays were 
regularly identified as interludes, the term being loosely used 
without regard to dramatic genre. 

The sixteenth century was a time of strife between religions ; 
Christians fought each other even as Christians were fighting 
Turks. Quite inevitably the interpretation of Biblical stories 
was made by dramatists for whom truth took on different hues 
in the minds it passed through. The morality often merged into 
theological polemic as the conflict between the Roman church 

1 Gilbert Burnet, The History of the Reformation (Oxford, 1865), vol. iv, p. 515. 
See also Greg, 'Dramatic Records of the City of London', Mai. Soc. Coll. 11, 
iii (193 1), 287-9, f° r licences granted 1527-9 for churches to raise money by 
stage plays. 

15 22 5 CDP 


and the gradually developing Protestant sects became violent 
and passionate. The strictly polemical plays are out of the range 
of this study, but the Biblical plays are apt to be coloured by 
the theological preoccupations of their authors. 

The converting of Biblical plays to polemic is most fully 
demonstrated in the plays of John Bale, who was not without 
reason known as ' bilious Bale'. 1 Five out of the twenty-two 
that he said he wrote 'in idiomate materna' 2 constitute the 
largest group of survivals from the first half of the sixteenth 
century. Kingjohan is a history play oriented toward the politics 
of church and state ; the other four are religious plays, three of 
them drawn from the Bible. Chambers wrote in his Mediaeval 
Stage of these three : ' In God's Promises, John Baptist, and The 
Temptation, Bale was simply adapting and Protestantizing the 
miracle-play.' 3 They may be parts of a cycle of such plays, he 
thought. Bale's latest biographer, Honor McCusker, writes of 

They are not great plays, often not even interesting plays so far 
as their content is concerned. Their chief value lies in the fact that 
they are a late survival of a form which even in 1538 was very nearly 
outmoded, and (which is still more important) are the earliest 
instances of a completely new use of that form. 4 

My contention is that they are not survivors of the miracle play 
at all but pioneers of the new Bible play and present not 'a com- 
pletely new use of that form ' but an attempt to use a new form, 
the interlude, then growing into acceptance in the secular drama. 
Most of Bale's lost plays were, as their titles indicate, either 
theological or Biblical, and his dramatic efforts seem to me to 
indicate that he was trying to do what others on the continent 
were doing : offer religious rather than secular fare in the drama. 
My reasons for saying so can only be given in a review of his 
life and work, however. 

Bale, it will be remembered, was reared by the Carmelite 

1 W. T. Davies, 'A Bibliography of John Bale', Oxford Bibliographical 
Society, Proceedings and Papers, v, iv (1939), 203-79. Jesse W. Harris, John Bale, 
Illinois Studies in Language and Literature, XXV (Urbana, 1940). Honor McCusker, 
John Bale (Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, 1942). 

2 The list is also given by Chambers, Med. Stage, vol. 11, p. 447. 

3 Ibid. pp. 224 and 131. 4 McCusker, p. 78. 



monks. After studying at Cambridge and on the continent, he 
took a degree in divinity in 1529 at Cambridge and became 
himself a monk, afterward being in turn prior of the Carmelites 
at Maldon, Ipswich, and Doncaster. Though apparently zealous 
in his early faith, he was certainly in difficulties with the church 
authorities while he was still a Catholic cleric, and he finally 
became a passionate Protestant. We do not know when he 
began to write plays, but when he was called before Archbishop 
Lee in 1 5 34, he was protected by Cromwell ' ob editas comedias '. 
He seems to have held the curacy of Thornton in Suffolk well 
into 1536, but in that year he was called to answer a charge of 
heresy to Bishop Stokesley in London and, in his defence, he 
said he had advised his hearers to accept circumspectly Christ's 
descent into hell, ' And not to beleve yt as yei se yt sett forth 
in peynted clothes, or in glasse wyndowes, or lyke as my self 
had befor time sett yt forth in ye cuntre yer in a serten playe'. 1 
Some evidence has been adduced to suggest that his Three Laws 
was written before he left the cloister in 153 i. a At any rate, 
McCusker concludes that he must have been in charge of a 
travelling company of players before 1536 and have written a 
good number of his plays before that time. It is recorded that 
'Bale and his ffelowes' played before Cromwell in 1538 and 
1539, an d that 'Lord Cromwell's players', with whom Bale's 
players have usually been identified, were playing in various 
towns during the late thirties. 3 It is supposed that they had to 
eke out a living playing where they could. 

When Cromwell fell in 1540, Bale escaped to the continent, 
but from this distance he entered into a dispute over an act 
passed in 1543 and under the name of Henry Stalbridge wrote 
in an TLpistel Exhortatorye of an Inglyshe Christian: 

None leave ye unvexed and untrobled — no, not so much as the 
poore minstrels, and players of enterludes, but ye are doing with 
them. So long as they played lyes and sange baudy songes, blas- 
phemed God, and corrupted men's consciences, ye never blamed 
them, but were verye well contented. But sens they persuaded the 

1 Ibid. pp. 5-7. 

2 Harris, pp. 68-9. Bale listed fourteen of the plays in Anglorum He/iades as 
written for the Earl of Oxford. See also McCusker, p. 74. 

3 McCusker, pp. 75-6. 

"7 15-2 


people to worship theyr Lorde God aryght, accordyng to hys holie 
lawes and not yours, and to acknoledge Jesus Chryst for their onely 
redeemer and saviour, without your lowsie legerdemains, ye never 
were pleased with them. 1 

The epistle seems to display his rancorous opposition to secular 
plays on the usual grounds that they were based upon lies as 
distinguished from the truth of the Bible and that they included 
bawdry, but he obviously opposed also the Catholic plays, 
presumably including the old miracles and moralities written 
when England was a Catholic country. 

Bale returned to England at the accession of Edward VI, 
and the offending law was soon repealed. 2 In 1552 Edward 
made Bale Bishop of Ossory. During his troubled stay in 
Ireland he continued to use his dramas, and he recorded the 
events at Kilkenny on 20 August 1553, the day of Mary's 
accession : 

The yonge men in the forenone played a Tragedye of Gods pro- 
mises in the olde lawe at the market crosse, with organe, plainges 
and songes very aptely. In the afternone agayne they played a 
Comedie of sanct Johan Baptistes preachinges, of Christes baptisynge 
and of his temptacion in the wildernesse. 3 

With Mary on the throne, Bale had again to escape to the 
continent, and he ultimately reached Basel, where in 1555-6 
he matriculated at the university, probably living in the Clara- 
kloster, the common home of English refugees. John Foxe was 
there too, 4 and Bale wrote of him in 1 5 5 6 : ' For nearly ten years 
he had been my Achates ; in England we dwelt together in the 
house of the illustrious Duchess of Richmond, and now once 
more we are dwelling together in Germany.' 5 Both were friends 
of the printer Oporinus, who had published the works of Stoa 
and the great collection of Biblical plays, Dramata Sacra. In 1 5 5 6 
he was publishing Foxe's Christus Triumphans. He was to print 
other works of both men, but he is known today chiefly for 

1 Chambers, Med. Stage, vol. 11, pp. 446-7. 

■ Ibid. p. 222. 3 McCusker, p. 22. 

4 Christina H. Garrett, The Marian Exiles (Cambridge, 1938), pp. 78 and 156. 

* Herford, p. 138. 



having printed Bale's Latin catalogue of British writers and 
Foxe's first Latin edition of what became in English the Actes 
and Monuments, the latter published jointly by Oporinus and 
Brylinger. It is important to note that Bale had a long associa- 
tion with these men who were the promoters of the new Biblical 
drama. At some time Bale translated the Pammachius of Kirch- 
meyer included in the Brylinger volume. He was certainly in 
intimate contact with the men interested in the movement. But 
when he was able to return to England after Elizabeth was on 
the throne, he was an aged and ailing man, and his days as a 
dramatist were over. When he died in 1 563 he was a canon of 
Canterbury Cathedral. 1 

The four of Bale's printed plays that have come down to us — 
The Chief Promises of God, John the Baptist's Preaching, The 
Temptation of Christ, and The Three Laws — were probably first 
printed by Dirik van der Straten in 1547-8 at Wesel, but they 
all according to their title-pages were ' compiled ' in 15 38.* 
They may have been revised before they were printed. The 
Three Laws certainly must have been revised, for the concluding 
prayer mentions Queen Katherine and the Lord Protector, and 
when it was printed in England in 1562, the prayer was for 
Queen Elizabeth, a fact not noted by Greg. The only other play 
of Bale's to be printed in England was The Chief Promises of God, 
and it was not printed until 1 5 77. It may be of some significance 
that three of the plays which have survived in print out of his 
twenty-two written were those which were performed on that 
fatal day at Kilkenny. 

In conformity with the current usage in secular drama, all 
four of the plays were printed as interludes, but the Promises of 
God was also called a tragedy and the other three comedies. 
There has been a good deal of discussion concerning the reason 
for this double ascription of dramatic genre without recognition 
of the fact that Bale's plays were not unique in this practice. 
Jacob and Esau, for instance, was published as a comedy or 
interlude, and the prologue of Ralph Roister Doister (the title- 

1 McCusker, pp. 27-8. 

z Chambers, Med. Stage, vol. n, pp. 448-50. Concerning the original printer 
see Greg, Bibliography, under each play. 



page of which is missing) refers to 'our comedy or interlude'. 1 
Like the interludes written by the Sir Thomas More circle, 
Bale's plays had little action, consisting mostly of dialogue. 

That Bale was writing in the tradition of those who were 
trying to present their religious plays as rivals to secular offerings 
seems indicated by the address of the Prolocutor in the Promises 
of God: 

If profyght may growe, most Christen audyence 

By knowledge of thynges, whych are but transytorye, 

And here for a tyme. Of moch more congruence 

Advantauge myght sprynge, by the serche of causes heavenlye 

As those matters are, that the Gospell specyfye. 

Yow therefor (good fryndes) I lovyngely exhort 

To waye soche matters, as wyll be uttered heere, 

Of whome ye maye loke, to have no tryfeling sport 

In fantasyes fayned, nor soche lyke gaudysh geere 

But the thynges that shall, your inwarde stomack streere. 

To reioyce in God, for your justyfycacyon, 

And alone in Christ, to hope for your salvacyon. 2 

The plays differ somewhat in construction, probably because 
of the differences in the material which they present. All, 
however, have prologues spoken by a prolocutor (Bale), all 
have their stage directions written in Latin, and all, as I have 
said, depend on dialogue rather than action for their story. 

A T rage dye or enter lude manyfestyng the chefe promyses of God unto 
man by all ages in the olde lawe^from the fall of Adam to the incar- 
nacyon of the lorde Jesus Christ! is divided into seven acts, pre- 
sumably because there are seven promises recorded as made by 
God to Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Esaias, and 
Joannes Baptista after the sins of mankind and the punishment 
that ensued have been described. Each act closes with one of 
the seven O's of the Christmas antiphons, the 'chorus cum 

1 Note also no. 10, Rastell's play on women [Calisto and Melebea] referred 
to earlier and no. 57, W. Wager's A Comedy or interlude Intituled Inough is as good 
as a feast. 

2 The edge of the text as reproduced by John S. Farmer, The Tudor Facsimile 
Texts, vol. xvii (1908), is marred, and I have supplied the missing words from 
the 1577 edition in the Huntington Library. 

3 No. 22. 



organis ' which accompanied them suggesting the classical use 
of the chorus. Why God's promises should constitute a tragedy 
remains a mystery, for the salvation promised ultimately through 
Christ when sought by faith would seem to mark a happy 
ending. Perhaps the sins of men which made such redemption 
necessary seemed to Bale tragedy. 

A brefe Comedy or enter lude of Jo ban Baptystes preachynge in the 
nylderness, openynge the craftye assaultes of the hypocrytes, with the 
gloryouse Baptyme of the Lorde Jesus Christ is available now only 
in the reprint of 1744 in The Har/eian Miscellany} There is no 
division into acts and scenes. The ' interlocutores ' are listed in 
Latin, but with their English equivalents. "Pater coelestis, 
i.e. the heavenly Father' appears only as a voice from heaven. 
Pharisee, Sadducee, and Soldier speak as generalized characters 
rather than individuals, and 'Turba vulgaris, The Common 
People' are apparently represented by one character. John and 
Christ speak somewhat elaborated versions of their Biblical 
speeches. There is no action save the baptizing of the Common 
People and the baptism of Christ. The stage directions call for 
Pharisee and Sadducee to enter from different places, and the 
Holy Spirit in the likeness of a dove descends from above as 
the voice of the Heavenly Father is heard. How these things 
were managed at Kilkenny is not indicated. A gloria is directed 
to be sung in English and is followed by Bale as prolocutor 
speaking an epilogue anti-Catholic in its appeal. 

A. brefe Comedy or enter lude concernynge the temptacyon of our lorde 
and saver Jesus Christ, by Sathan in the desart 2 was clearly intended 
to follow immediately the account of Johan's preaching and 
Christ's baptism as it did at Kilkenny, for Bale as prolocutor 

After hys baptyme. Christ was Gods soone declared, 
By the fathers voyce, as ye before have hearde. 

and the foliation of the printed edition indicates that the two 
plays were published together. It is referred to as ' thys acte ', 
and there are, as in the preceding play, no act and scene divi- 

1 See account in n. 1 to no. 23 in Greg, Bibliography. Text from Har/eian 
Miscellany, vol. I, pp. [97]-i 10. 

1 No. 23. Text from Tudor Fac. Texts, cxl (19 19). 



sions. The play shows, however, a more sustained effort to 
make real the characters of Christ and Satan than appears in 
the characterization of the principals in his other plays. Christ 
enters explaining that he has been fasting for forty days, but 
that he does not want the audience to think he has done so 
because he wants them to fast, and in like manner throughout 
the dialogue Bale attributes to Christ his own doctrinal beliefs. 
The dialogue between Satan and Christ makes up the whole of 
the interlude until the two angels appear at its close, and it is 
more interesting than usual. Satan presents himself as a simple 
hermit who has heard the strange voice from heaven proclaim- 
ing Jesus as the Son of God and he has come to find him. 
The stage direction supports Bale's theology: 'Hie simulata 
religione Christum aggreditur.' He speaks flattering words to 
Christ and proposes to walk with him, solicitously asking how 
long he has been in the desert. Christ acknowledges that his 
stomach is declaring the weakness of his body after his long 
fast, but he repels all the temptations Satan offers. In accord 
with Bible story Satan finally leads him to a mountain top and 
there offers him all the delights of Araby, Affryk, Europe, and 
Asye, which seem to have represented all the kingdoms of the 
world to Bale, but there is no indication how the mountain 
and the panoramic view were offered to the audience. Satan, 
having failed in his purpose, departs as two angels come to 
comfort Christ. They bring him food, saying, 'And now these 
vytales, we have for you prepared', but Christ will not eat until 
he has said a proper grace. (It will be remembered that in 
Marie Magdalene Christ will likewise not sit at Simon's table until 
after he has said grace.) The play ends with each angel con- 
tributing to the explanation of the story, but Bale adds the final 

A Comedy Concernynge thre lawes, of nature Moses, & Christ , 
corrupted by the Sodomytes. Pharysees and Papystes, 1 when it was 
printed in England in 1 562, was made to conform to the other 
plays by becoming A NEWE Comedy or Enter lude. It is a bitter 
polemical drama, its characters personified abstractions, and it 
need concern us here, being outside our particular study, only in 

1 No. 24. 



so far as it can throw some light on Bale's dramatic method in the 
other plays. I have said that the nature of the material deter- 
mined the organization of his plays rather than any dramatic 
theory. There were seven acts in The Chief Promises of God 
because it recorded seven promises and each act could close 
with one of the seven O's of the Christmas antiphons, and there 
are five acts in this play for a similar reason as shown in his 
outline of their content: 

De Legibus divinis Comoedia. Actus primus. 
Naturae lex corrupta. Actus secundus. 
Moseh lex corrupta. Actus tertius. 
Christi lex corrupta. Actus quartus. 
Restauratio legum divinarum. Actus quintus. 

There are songs introduced, some secular like the 'Brom, 
brom' of Infidelitas, but the closing Benedictus is composed in 
the spirit of an anathema. 

The three Biblical plays of Bale are clearly not built around 
miracles but about simple stories that can be used as a back- 
ground for religious and theological instruction. They seem 
like extensions of the sermon. Nevertheless, Bale used the inter- 
lude form, as I have tried to show, and by listing each as comedy 
or tragedy he at least bowed to the habits of his friends on the 
continent who were organizing their plays in conformity to 
classical models. All of his surviving plays reveal Bale, as do his 
other works, in the vanguard of the religious struggle which 
was being waged, but that he was also a participant in the move 
among Christian humanists to create a Christian drama seems 
likewise evident. 

There were certainly others than Bale who were writing 
Biblical plays for the public in his generation, and others than 
Bale were looking to Cromwell for support in their dramatic 
ventures. Thomas Wylley, the Vicar of Yoxford in Suffolk, was 
petitioning him for help in order that he might have 'fre 
lyberty to preche the trewthe ' in spite of the opposition of the 
priests of Suffolk, but the plays which he describes are plainly 
anti-Catholic plays directed to polemic rather than to the 
creation of a new Biblical dramatic literature. Nicholas Udall 



in 1538 was paid Rve pounds 'for playing before* Cromwell 
while he was the schoolmaster of Eton. It is unlikely that Udall, 
the author of E^echias as we hear it described and of Ralph 
Roister Doister as we know it, would have offered an old- 
fashioned play. Whether he was the author of a play which had 
been presented in Braintree while he was vicar there in 1 5 3 3 
we just do not know. 1 

Since this generation is not much inclined to find entertain- 
ment in the asperities of dramatized conflicts over theological 
dogma, we can be reconciled to the fact that most of the pole- 
mical plays like those of John Bale and Thomas Wylley did 
not achieve the permanence of print, but all students of drama 
must be grateful that we do have enough of the early interludes, 
both secular and religious, to mark the course by which English 
drama developed in the sixteenth century. 

A copy of one of the more curious of these early interludes, 
dated tentatively by Greg as about 1550 but with the suggestion 
that there may have been an earlier edition, is Saynt Johan the 
Evangelyst. 2 An interlude on Saint John the evangelist was sold 
in 1520 by an Oxford bookseller, but there is no way of identi- 
fying this play which we have with that which we do not have. 
This is a crude play though strewed with Latin, and it is in fact 
a morality with Saint Johan preaching Christ's parable of the 
Pharisee and the Publican introduced in an incongruous setting. 
What makes it interesting is that it is set in England with 
English place-names and English customs identified. Throwing 
eggs at unwelcome speakers and the courteous English habit 
of greeting all women with a kiss (which pleased Erasmus, it 
will be remembered) are especially to be noted. Prologue and 
epilogue are absent, though Saint Johan makes opening and 
closing speeches. There are no act or scene divisions and no 
stage directions, only a record of dialogue, but it is not without 
interest. Iridision's discourse to Eugenio on the via recta which 

1 Chambers, Med. Stage, vol. n, pp. 220-1 and 451. The nature of the play is 
unknown. Chambers suggests a play on Placidas. 

2 No. 26. The title-page reads : Here begynneth the enterlude of Johan the Evangelyst, 
the head title reads merely, Saynt Johan the Evangelyst. Text from ed. W. W. Greg, 
Mai. Soc. Reprints (1907). The introduction gives an account of the earlier 



leads to the new Jerusalem and the via obliqua et via circularis is 
marked by a Dantesque description of hell : 

There is froste / there is fyre 
Hope is loste and her desyre 
There care hath no recover 
Without pytie there is payne 
To crye for mercy it is in vayne 
For grace is gone for ever [11. 172-7]. 

Johan's words are sometimes moving: 

Moche can I shewe you of Christes incarnacyon 

And of his passyon / for verely I was there 

I sawe hym hange on the crosse on hye on hye 

His mother and I stode there under 

And I herde whan he cryed Hely Hely 

And sawe Longes smyte his herte a sonder [11. 241-6]. 

But the dialogue in which Idlenesse and Ivell Counsayle and 
Actio engage is lusty and trivial and bawdy. Johan's final 
hearers are converted summarily at the end of the play. As I 
said earlier, the most interesting fact about the play is that it 
transports Saint John to England to do his preaching. 

Extensive fragments of a much more important play survive 
only in a manuscript which is without title, date, or indication 
of authorship. The editors for the Malone Society edition, who 
give it the title of The Resurrection of Our Lord, 1 are inclined to 
date it between 1550 and 1 5 60, but Greg as general editor adds 
a note to their comments suggesting rather that the date is 
between 1580 and 1630. The editors are tempted to father the 
play on John Bale, which may account for their inclination to 
the earlier date, but I must confess that I have no such tempta- 
tion, for it is wholly unlike Bale's plays in tone and is the work 
of a far better craftsman. It is, however, like Bale's, clearly 
addressed to a public audience. 

This resurrection drama is written for production on two 
days. No acts and scenes are indicated, but five times during 
the two days of playing Appendix comes on to speak as a 
chorus might speak, and within the sections thus set off there 

1 Eds. J. Dover Wilson and Bertram Dobell, Mai. Soc. Reprints (1912). The 
general editor's note is, however, dated 191 3. 



are episodes so treated that they might well be marked as 
scenes. The term Appendix is literary rather than theatrical, 
and some of the speeches are so long that it seems likely that 
any audience would grow restive hearing them. Yet there are 
evidences of a somewhat developed dramatic sense in the way 
in which the episodes are used to build up the plot, and tech- 
nical devices used in classical drama are used here. The lacunae 
in the manuscript make analysis difficult, of course. 

Though the first eight leaves of the manuscript are missing, 
they cannot have been necessary to the understanding of the 
story, for the first fragment begins with the Centurion recalling 
the antecedent action, giving to Pilate an account of events 
when Christ was crucified, even using the ancient device of 
telling him what he already knew: 

Yea, your honour doth remember, how yester night last 

a worshipfull Senatour here was not agast 

bouldye to request his corps, to be buried [11. 42-4]. 

He uses another ancient device with his ' yonder come the high 
Priests ' to identify Caiphas and Annas as they appear. The high 
priests demand that, because his disciples have spread the 
rumour that Christ will rise on the third day, the tomb be 
guarded; Pilate gives the order to the Centurion; and the 
Centurion relays it to the soldiers. The soldiers guard the tomb, 
but they ' fall downe as deade in hearing the gonnes shott of & 
thunder ', and ' Jesus riseth throwynge of Death [&] the Angell V 
Frightened, the soldiers flee. Appendix, in explaining events, 
manages to insert a diatribe against those who would prohibit 
the reading of the Bible by the people. Then come the episodes 
showing the four Maries lamenting as they view the empty 
tomb, the angels comforting them, and Christ appearing to 
them like a gardener. The manuscript resumes after a lost 
section with the high priests bribing the soldiers to say that the 
disciples of Christ have stolen his body. Appendix is speaking as 
another lapse in the manuscript occurs, a lapse which covers 
the beginning of the second day's playing. 

1 The stage direction is at the bottom of the page, marked to be inserted after 
1. 241. 



When the manuscript resumes the story, Christ is comforting 
Peter and the others, recalling to Peter events which the audi- 
ence needs to know. Appendix offers Biblical authority for the 
story the play is telling but is frank to explain : ' Then where we 
have in scripture, but two words of the matter/the rest you 
must attribute, unto our invention' [11. 61 1-12]. Christ preaches 
a sermon to Luke and Cleophas of some 250 lines on the fulfil- 
ment of prophecy and the foreshadowing of events. He quite 
literally breaks bread with his disciples and then vanishes 
mysteriously. After Appendix has spoken, the two disciples 
walk aside but join the others to discuss Christ's vanishing at 
Emmaus. Another gap in the manuscript, and Appendix is 
again speaking. Eight days have passed with the disciples in 
hiding before we hear the others trying to convince the 
doubting Thomas of what has happened, and there the manu- 
script breaks off. 

I have tried to show that even the broken story reveals a 
writer consciously building his episodes to a well-rounded 
plot. The author has also shown some skill in introducing 
realistic touches in characterization. Marie Magdalene is tem- 
pestuous in her anger, she is careful with her box of ointment 
and asks someone to hold it when she dashes off to get Peter 
and John, and twice the stage directions call upon her to lament. 
The disciples are sceptical of the tale about seeing Christ as 
told by the women, for they cannot believe that Christ would 
have first appeared to women. The author's 'invention' adds 
to the interest of the story, but the chief interest of the play for 
the historians of the drama must lie in his careful building of a 
plot, in his adopting old theatrical devices, and in his use of the 
play to reveal the death and resurrection of Christ as a fulfilment 
of a divine plan long prefigured. 

2 37 



a fter 1576 the English drama was given a home of its 
/\ own, for in that year the Theatre was built. In the same 
JL Jl year rooms in the old Blackfriars monastery were made 
into a 'private' theatre. More theatres followed, the Curtain 
in 1 577. The Theatre and the Curtain were frankly commercial 
houses ; Blackfriars, where the children's companies were sup- 
posedly readying plays for presentation at court, was less 
frankly so. Plays had previously been performed in churches 
and churchyards, in schools and universities, in inn-yards and 
on the village greens, as well as in places provided for their 
presentation before the rich, the noble, and the royal. The inn- 
yards, it is said, actually had an increased patronage immediately 
after the erection of the Theatre and the Curtain, 1 but as 
theatres multiplied and the writing and producing of plays 
became the work of professionals, the patrons of the village 
green and the inn-yard seem to have congregated more and 
more at the playhouse. The commercialization of the theatres 
made necessary a regular production of plays and, as everyone 
knows, the writers of the period became in innumerable cases 
playwrights. Yet the record of the plays produced by them is 
neither clear nor complete. 

Aside from incidental references our knowledge of the dramas 
of the last quarter of the sixteenth century in England is largely 
derived from three sources: (1) the Stationers' Register, (2) the 
documents preserved in the Office of the Revels, and (3) the 
diary of Philip Henslowe. After 1557 plays to be printed 
should have been entered on the Stationers' Register, but not 
all plays were printed, and not all that were printed were 
entered on the Register. Plays were being presented at court, 
and the Office of the Revels made provision for them, but the 

William Ringler, 'The First Phase of the Elizabethan Attack on the Stage, 
1558-1579', Huntington Library Quarterly, vol. v (1942), pp. 391-418. 



Revels accounts 1 were perforce more concerned with the 
expenses for 'bote hier & horshier' and 'viserdes' than with 
the titles of plays, and the name of a tailor is more apt to be 
recorded than the name of an author. The public playhouses 
had only one contemporary chronicler, but for him we are 
grateful. Philip Henslowe is called by Chambers a capitalist, 
and that term may be broad enough to describe this man of many 
ventures in finance who is known today chiefly because he left 
a record of his manifold dealings as builder, landlord, and 
banker in connection with theatrical enterprises. His famous 
Diary 2 is, as Chambers says, 'not in fact a diary at all, but a folio 
memorandum book, which Henslowe used principally during 
1 592-1603, and in which he entered in picturesque confusion 
particulars of accounts between himself and the companies 
occupying his theatres, together with jottings on many personal 
and business matters'. 3 Here he recorded advances made to 
individuals and to companies for theatrical properties and 
apparel. Here, too, he listed the receipts or his share of the 
receipts for each individual play produced by these companies 
and the payments advanced or finally paid to dramatists for 
the writing or altering of plays. Occasionally he entered a note 
of sociological interest as when in 1601 he recorded money 
' Layd out for the company to geatte the boye into the ospetalle 
w° h was hurt at the forte wne [Fortune] \ 4 I may add that his 
highly personal orthography sometimes demands the imagi- 
native reconstruction which Greg, who edited the diary, has 
offered. It is, of course, to Chambers and Greg in large measure 
that we owe the amassing of such facts as we have to work with 
when we try to interpret the Tudor drama. It is evident, how- 
ever, that our knowledge is still limited, for the Stationers' 
Register does not furnish a complete list of printed plays, the 
Revels accounts give little heed to the literary side of dramatic 

1 Ed. Albert Feuillerat, Documents delating to the Office of the Revels in the Time 
of Queen Elizabeth, Materialien xxi (Louvain, 1908); and Documents Relating to the 
Revels at Court in the Time of King Edward VI and Queen Mary (The Lose ley Manu- 
scripts), Materialien xliv (Louvain, 19 14). 

2 Hensloive's Diary, ed. W. W. Greg, part 1, Text (London, 1904), part 11, 
Commentary (London, 1908). 

3 Chambers, Eli%. Stage, vol. 1, p. 360. 4 Diary, vol. 1, p. 136. 



production, and Henslowe's diary, beginning in 1 592, can give 
no information concerning plays produced before that time 
or by companies other than those with which he was associated. 

If we look to the Stationers' Register for entries of Scriptural 
plays printed between the opening of the Theatre in 1576 and 
the end of Elizabeth's reign, we find just four: Golding's 
translation of Beze's Abraham Sacrlfiant, which does not seem 
to have been performed in England; The most Virtuous and 
Godly Susanna, which I have already discussed as probably in- 
tended for production before limited audiences; and finally 
A Looklng-Glass for London and England and The Love of King 
David and Fair Bethsabe, the only two prepared for the public 
theatre, it would seem. Since the Revels accounts give little 
help in this search, it is therefore Henslowe's Diary which proves 
our most important if still limited source of information. The 
Diary gives information, indeed, about a considerable number 
of these plays, and perhaps I can best indicate what it is by 
summarizing the facts gleaned by Greg concerning them: 

A Looking-Glass for London and England was performed as an 
old play by Strange's men four times between 8 March and 
7 June 1 591/2. * 

Jerusalem was also performed as an old play by Strange's men 
on 22 March and 25 April 1 591/2, but it may not have been 
a Bible play. 2 

Abraham and Lot was performed as an old play by Sussex's 
men three times in January 1593/4.3 

Hester and Assuerus was performed as an old play by the 
Admiral's and Chamberlain's men twice in June 1594. 4 

The Seven Days of the Week, possibly a Bible play as the title 
may suggest, but doubtfully so classified, was played as a new 
play by the Admiral's men twenty-two times between 3 June 
1595, and 3 1 December 1 596. The Second Week was played twice 
in January 1595/6.5 

1 No. 14. The plays are given numbers in ch. in of the Commentary (vol. 11). 
I am indicating the number he assigns to each play there. 

* No. 18. 3 No. 34. 4 No. 41. 

5 Nos. 73 and 86. It may possibly be of significance that parts of Du Bartas's 
Divine Weeks and Works were receiving attention at this time. The First Day of the 
Worldes Creation ■, translated by an unidentified author, was published in 1595, as 



Nabuchodono^pr was performed as a new play by the Admiral's 
men eight times between 19 December 1596, and 21 March 

I597- 1 

Judas was noted four times in the Diary. On 27 May 1600, 
William Haughton was given an advance on it for the Admiral's 
men. For probably the same play, William Birde (alias Borne) 
was given twenty shillings 'in earnest of a Boocke called Judas 
w * 1 samewell Rowly & he is a writtinge some of and, on 
24 December 1601, the two were paid in full by the further sum 
of five pounds. Then in January of the following year, a pay- 
ment was made for properties for the play. 2 

Pontius Pilate (Henslowe writes * ponesciones pillet ') was fur- 
nished with a prologue and epilogue for the play for the Ad- 
miral's men by Thomas Dekker in January 1601/2.3 

Jephtbab ('JefFa' to Henslowe) necessitated several entries. 
On 5 May 1602, Anthony Munday and Thomas Dekker were 
paid five pounds in advance on the book for the Admiral's men. 
Later in the month two shillings was spent 'when they Read 
the playe of JefFa for wine at the tavern'. Five entries in May 
and June record rather lavish expenditures for costumes and 
properties. 4 

Tobyas was secured for the Admiral's men by payments to 
Henry Chettle in May and June 1602. 5 

Samson was paid for in full on 25 July 1602 by men of the 
Admiral's company, but to whom the payment was made is not 
indicated. That a play on Samson was being performed a few 
years later is inferred from a reference in Middleton's Family of 
Love. 6 

Joshua was secured for the Admiral's men by a payment in 
full to Samuel Rowley on 27 September 1602. 7 

was W. L'isle's translation of part of the Seconde Weeke. From this time on 
translations of Du Bartas's Divine Weekes and Workes were coming regularly from 
the presses. See chs. ix and x of part 1 of this study. 

1 No. 97. 

a No. 207. For details see Diary, vol. r, pp. 122, 151 and 152. 

3 No. 230. 

4 No. 234. For details see Diary, vol. 1, pp. 166 and 168. 

5 No. 235. See also Harold Jenkins, The Life and Work of Henry Chettle 
(London, 1934), p. 240. 

6 No. 241. ' No. 247. 

16 241 cdp 


Absalom is known only by a payment in October 1602, made 
on behalf of Worcester's men for pulleys and workmanship 
'for to hange absolome'. The reference may be to David and 
Bethsabe. 1 

Of these fourteen plays, eleven were certainly based on the 
Bible, three are in doubt, and only the Looking-Glass is extant 
unless the reference to Absalom is indeed to David and Bethsabe. 
Yet it is clear that during the decade beginning in 1592, and 
for those companies with which Henslowe had dealings, Bible 
plays were being produced in the public theatres which were 
written by an impressive roster of Elizabethan authors : Robert 
Greene, Thomas Lodge, Samuel Rowley, Thomas Dekker, 
Anthony Munday, and Henry Chettle, as well as by the less 
familiar William Haughton and William Birde. 

Whether the Biblical plays of these ten years for which Hens- 
lowe bore some responsibility are to be regarded as the product 
of exceptional circumstances as R. B. Sharpe seems to think or 
no, 2 they did not escape the wrath of the unco guid which was 
poured down on plays generally after the public theatres were 
built. William Ringler has argued persuasively that ' The attack 
on the stage, which was unheralded and unprecedented, began 
quite suddenly in the latter part of 1577, and continued in 
the succeeding years with increasing vigor and acrimony'. 3 
Certainly two sermons preached at Paul's Cross suggest a spirit 
of envious rivalry in the divines. 'T.W.' preaching there in 
1 5 77 cried out in his distress : ' Look but uppon the common 
playes in London, and see the multitude that flocketh to them 
and followeth them: beholde the sumptuous Theatre houses, 
a continuall monument of Londons prodigalitie and folly.'^ 
John Stockwood at Paul's Cross in 1578 was more explicit: 

Wyll not a fylthye playe, wyth the blast of a Trumpette, sooner 
call thyther a thousande, than an houres tolling of a Bell, bring to 
the Sermon a hundred? nay even heere in the Citie, without it be 
at this place, and some other certaine ordinarie audience, where 
shall you find a reasonable company? whereas, if you resorte to the 

1 No. 269 a. 

2 The Real War of the Theatres (Boston and London, 1935), pp. 28-31. 

3 See note 1 on p. 238 above 4 Chambers, £//£. Stage , vol. iv, p. 199. 



Theatre, the Curtayne, and other places of Playes in the Citie, you 
shall on the Lords day have these places, with many other that I can 
not recken, so full, as possible they can throng. 1 

In 1 5 79 the most famous of the attacks on the stage 2 appeared 
under the all-embracing title of The Schoole of Abuse. Con- 
teining a pleasaunt invective against Poets, Pipers, Plaiers, Jesters and 
such Catterpillers of a Commonwelth. It was written by 'Stephan 
Gosson, Stud. Oxon.' and dedicated to Sir Philip Sidney. 
Apparently the dedication was made without due regard to 
the ' inclination and qualitie ' of the recipient of the honour, 
and the work played at least a part in eliciting Sidney's great 
defence of poetry. 3 Later in 1579 Gosson published in the 
volume of his Ephemerides ofPhialo, another work dedicated to 
Sidney, A Short Apologie of the Schoole of Abuse, against Poets, 
Pipers, Players, and their Excusers. In this work he wrote : 

It is tolde mee that they have got one in London to write certaine 
Honest excuses, for so they terme it, to their dishonest abuses which 

I revealed How he frames his excuses, I know not yet, because 

it is done in hudder mudder. 4 

Thomas Lodge has been identified as the one in London who 
had thus come to the defence of plays and players, instancing 
the poetry of the Bible and the approval of certain of the 
church fathers along with that of ancient classical writers. 5 He 
noted Buchanan's works and Erasmus's translations of Euri- 
pides and added: 

The Germans, when the use of preaching was forbidden them, 
what helpe had they I pray you? Forsoth the learned were fayne 
covertly in comedies to declare abuses, and by playing to incite the 

1 Ibid. pp. 199-200. 

2 A full account is given by William Ringler, Stephen Gosson (Princeton, 1942), 
pp. 5 3-82. A table of the documents is given by G. Gregory Smith, Elizabethan 
Critical Essays (London, 1937, reprinted from 1904 edition), vol. 1, pp. 61-3. 
Chambers prints important selections, Eli%. Stage, vol. iv, pp. 197-258. See also 
N. Burton Paradise, Thomas Lodge (New Haven, 193 1), pp. 66-74. 

3 Spenser wrote to Gabriel Harvey, ' Newe Bookes I heare of none, but only 
of one, that writing a certaine Booke, called the schoole of abuse, and dedi- 
cating it to Maister Sidney, was for hys labor scorned, if at leaste it be in the 
goodnesse of that nature to scorne. Such follie is it not to regard aforehande 
the inclination and qualitie of him to whome we dedicate our Bookes ' (Smith, 
vol. 1, p. 89). 

4 Ibid. vol. 1, p. 62. 5 ibid. V ol. i, pp. 68-71. 

243 !6-2 


people to vertues, when they might heare no preaching. Those were 
lamentable dayes you will say, and so thinke I; but was not this, 
I pray you, a good help in reforming the decaying Gospel? 1 

Lodge's work exists without title-page or dedication. In An 
Alarum against Userers, published in 1584 and also dedicated to 
Sidney, Lodge addressed a letter to his fellows in the Inns 
of Court, in which he explained that his reply to Gosson 
* (because it was in defence of plaies & play makers) the godly & 
reverent that had to deale in the cause, misliking it, forbad the 
publishing'. 2 

In 1582 Gosson replied to Lodge's arguments concerning 
Christian precedents in his Playes confuted in five Actions with the 
honey and gall comparison, ' So the Devill, at Playes, wil bring 
the comfortable worde of God, which, because it norisheth of 
nature is very convenient to carry the poysen into our vaines'.3 
To explain away the writings of plays by Christian writers cited 
by Lodge he added: 

So Naciancen and Bucchanan perceiving the corruption of the 
Gentiles, to avoyde that which is evill, and yet keepe that which is 
good, according to the true use of Poetrie, penned these bookes in 
numbers with interloquutions dialogue wise, as Plato and Tullie did 
their Philosophy, to be reade, not be played Therefore whatso- 
ever such Playes as conteine good matter, are so out of print, may 
be read with profite, but cannot be playd, without a manifest breach 
of Gods commaundement. 

As to the play about John the Baptist, Buchanan had written 
it for the King of Scots to read and to profit thereby. 4 Gosson's 
facts are all askew, but the attack indicates that there were 
Biblical plays being acted, else he would have been shadow- 
boxing. The Plays Confuted ended the Gosson-Lodge contro- 
versy, but Lodge was to change sides later. 

Meanwhile in 1580, A second and third blast of re trait from 
plaies and Theaters was published by 'Anglo-phile Eutheo', 
generally identified as Anthony Munday. If the author was 
Munday, it was also the work of a man who changed sides. 

1 Smith, vol. 1, p. 84. 

2 The Complete Works of Thomas Lodge (Printed for the Hunterian Club, 1883), 
vol. 1, Alarum, p. 6. (Each work is given separate page numbers.) 

3 London [1582], D 5 v -6 r . 4 Ibid. E 5-7. 



Early apprenticed to Allde the printer, he did not finish his 
apprenticeship but took to his pen. After a trip to Rome, he 
wrote against the Jesuits. Appearing as an actor, he was hissed 
off the stage and wrote against the stage but again took up 
acting. 1 From Henslowe's diary we know him as a writer of 
plays after 1 5 94, but Anglo-phile Eutheo claimed in 1 5 80 to have 
been * a greater affecter of that vaine art of Plaie-making ' and 
able to speak with authority against the Theatre, which he 
termed 'the chappel of Satan'. He specifically attacks the Bible 
plays being then presented : 

The reverend word of God & histories of the Bible, set forth on 
the stage by these blasphemous plaiers, are so corrupted with their 
gestures of scurrilitie, and so interlaced with uncleane, and whorish 
speeches, that it is not possible to drawe anie profite out of the doctrine 
of their spiritual moralities. 2 

In The Antomie of Abuses Phillip Stubbes was renewing the 
attack in editions from 1583 to 1595. A section 'Of Stage- 
playes and Enterluds, with their wickednes ' made an interesting 
division of plays into two kinds : 

All Stage-playes, Enterluds, and Commedies are either of divyne 
or prophane matter : If they be of divine matter, then are they most 
intollerable, or rather Sacrilegious ; for that the blessed word of God 
is to be handled reverently, gravely and sagely, with veneration to 
the glorious Majestie of God, which shineth therin, and not 
scoffingly, flowtingly, and jybingly, as it is upon stages in Playes 
and Enterluds, without any reverence, worship, or veneration to 
the same. The word of our Salvation, the price of Christ his bloud, 
& the merits of his passion were not given to be derided and jested 
at, as they be in these filthie playes and entreluds on stages & scaf- 
folds, or to be mixt and interlaced with bawdry, wanton shewes, 
& uncomely gestures, as is used (every Man knoweth) in these plays 
and enterludes ... beware, therfore, you masking Players, you 
painted sepulchres, you doble dealing ambodexters, be warned 
betymes, and, lik good computistes, cast your accompts before, 
what wil be the reward therof in the end, least God destroy you 
in his wrath: abuse God no more, corrupt his people no longer with 
your dregges, and intermingle not his blessed word with such 
prophane vanities. For at no hand it is not lawfull to mix scurrilitie 
with divinitie, not divinitie with scurrilitie. 

1 Chambers, EIi%. Stage, vol. in, pp. 444-6. ' Ibid. vol. iv, pp. 209-11. 



That he is referring to plays performed in the public theatres 
is made clear by his added warning to Christians to keep away 
from theatres, 'For so often as they go to those howses where 
Players frequent, thei go to Venus pallace & sathans synagogue 
to worship devils, & betray Christ Jesus ', with the note in the 
margin 'Theaters and curtaines Venus pallaces'. 1 

Thomas Lodge, as I have said, changed sides in the matter 
when he in 1596 wrote in Wits Miserie that 'in stage plaies to 
make use of Hystoricall Scripture, I hold it with the Legists 
odious, and as the Council of Trent did, Sess 4. Yin. I com- 
demne it\ 2 It was a curious comment when the Bible play 
which he had written with Robert Greene was even then 
enjoying a new popularity in print after its day in the theatre. 

In 1603 the attack on plays in general was being continued 
in Henry Crosse's Vertues Commonwealth which did not neglect 
scriptural plays that 

many times (which is most sinfull) intermixe the sacred worde of 
God, that never ought to be handled without feare and trembling, 
with their filthy and scurrillous Paganisme : is not this abhominable 
prophanation? is not that humble reverence of the oracles of God, 
hereby blasphemed, and basely scorned? is this fit to be suffered 
where Christ is professed? must the holy Prophets and Patriarcks be 
set upon a Stage to be derided, hist and laught at? or is it fit that 
the infirmities of holy men should be acted on a Stage, where by 
others may be inharted to rush carelessly forward into unbrideled 

Since an attack presupposes an offending subject, it seems 
evident that Bible plays were continuously being offered at the 
public theatres during the last quarter-century of Elizabeth's 
reign; yet only two which can with some confidence be assigned 
to the public theatres have been preserved. The first of these 
was described on its title-page, when it was first printed in 1 5 94, 
as A looking Glasse for London and YLngland. Made by Thomas 
Lodge Gentleman, and Robert Greene. In Artibus Magister.4 

1 Chambers, Eli%. Stage, vol. iv, pp. 222-3. 

2 Works, vol. iv, Wits Miserie, p. 46. 3 Sig. 3 V . 

4 No. 14 in Diary, no. 118 in Bibliography. Bibliographical facts are given also 
in W. W. Greg (ed.), Mai. Soc. Reprints (1932). See too C. R. Baskervill, 
'A Prompt Copy of A Looking Glass for London and England', Modern Philology, 
vol. xxx (1932), pp. 29-51. 



The fifth edition was published in 1617, and five passages were 
quoted from it in England's Parnassus in 1600, so that Greg 
concludes with some assurance that there must have been a 
good many Englishmen who liked to read it even if it had lost 
its popularity as a stage production after its 1592 revival. Just 
how long before this revival the play had been composed is 
uncertain, and the problem has brought a flock of contradictory 
opinions based on sound reasoning from inadequate facts. It is 
generally agreed that it bears some relation to Marlowe's 
Doctor Faustus, but which owed what to the other can be argued 
indefinitely as long as the dates of both remain in dispute. There 
are resemblances to Tamburlaine also, but resemblance does not 
always indicate direct indebtedness. Fortunately such matters 
need not concern us. The title-page bears witness to the author- 
ship of the play, Henslowe attests its having been played four 
times in 1592 as an old play, and after 1594 it had a history as 
printed literature. 

Both Greene and Lodge were university men and are gener- 
ally classed in histories of English literature as among the 
'university wits', men who came up to London from the 
universities and made something of a profession of letters. 
That they combined to write a Bible play testifies to its having 
been the thing to do. Greene took his B.A. and M.A. degrees 
at Cambridge, and a later degree at Oxford enabled him, as 
Chambers says, to describe himself as Academiae Utriusque 
Magister in Artibus. 1 He has left for the romancers adequate 
records of his own dissolute life and later repentance. Lodge 2 
took his degree at Oxford and apparently supplicated for his 
degree while a member of Lincoln's Inn, but he was not 
admitted to the bar. He became a Catholic, perhaps while he 
was at the university, but the time of his conversion is not clear. 
At various times he suffered for his recusancy. In his dedication 
to the work by which he is generally known today, his Rosa/jnde, 
he said he had written it while on a voyage ' to the Islands of 
Terceras & the Canaries', the date of which has, however, been 

1 Chambers, E/i%. Stage, vol. in, pp. 323, 327. 

2 Ibid. pp. 409-10. This biography by Paradise (see n. 2 on p. 243 above) 
supersedes earlier accounts. A list of Lodge's works is given, pp. 231-43. 



in dispute. He was also with the ill-fated voyage of Thomas 
Cavendish which sailed for America in 1591. His sea-going 
experiences are reflected in the Loo king-Glass. Another ex- 
perience influencing the play is that which is reflected in his 
Alarum against Usurers ; published in 1 5 84. Quite evidently there 
are links between his voyaging, his pamphlet on usury, and 
the play. Lodge's translations are many, but it must be noted 
that they included a translation of Goulart's summary of the 
great work of the Protestant Du Bartas among the many 
Catholic works of devotion. Since the Loo king-Glass shows that 
Josephus was consulted to supplement the Bible story, the fact 
that Lodge's translation of his works was entered on the 
Stationers' Register in 1591 though it was not printed until 
1 602 is also of some importance. Of Lodge's other works and 
of his later life as a physician there is no need to speak here. 

Robert Greene is said to have written a play on Job which was 
lost in the famous conflagration set by Warburton's servant, 1 
but nothing is known of it. The story of the sin and the repen- 
tance of the prophet Jonah must have been an even more con- 
genial one to him, however. The Loo king-Glass is, of course, 
firmly based upon the Biblical story of Jonah (or Jonas), and 
R. A. Law has proved, I think, his contention that it was the 
Bishops' Bible that furnished the play's authority. 2 He con- 
cludes, indeed, that ' Careful comparison of the play with the 
Bible text shows hardly a single verse in the entire four chapters 
of the Book of Jonas that has not been worked into the play, 
most of the verses in the same succession as in the original'. 
But the play is not simply a dramatization of the book in the 
Bible. The history of the Jews as told by Josephus was also 
used, 3 and Lodge may well have been working on his transla- 
tion when the play was written, as I have said. There is also 
much material added with an idea of admonishing London and 

1 W. W. Greg, 'The Bakings of Betsy', The Library, 3rd ser. vol. 11, pp. 225- 
59, esp. pp. 231-2. 

2 R. A. Law, 'A Looking Glasse and the Scriptures', Studies in English (Uni- 
versity of Texas, Austin, 1939, no. 1939), pp. 31-47. It should be noted, how- 
ever, that Cicilia is mentioned in Lodge's translation of Josephus (London, 1602), 
p. 238, and that Law's argument so far as it concerns that name is not convincing. 

3 Paradise, p. 154. 



England rather than enlightening them in regard to Jewish 

The first part of the play, more than a third, is devoted to the 
sins attributed to Ninivie, sins which in this looking-glass 
reflect the current sins of London and England as the authors 
saw them. It closes with Jonas's final appeal which it would 
seem impossible for Lodge to permit if he was already a 
Catholic : 

London, mayden of the mistresse He, 

Wrapt in the foldes and swathing cloutes of shame; 
In thee more sinnes than Ninivie containes. . . . 
London awake, for feare the Lord do frowne, 

1 set a looking Glasse before thine eyes. 

And thinke the praiers and vertues of thy Queene, 
Defers the plague, which otherwise would fall. 
O turne, O turne, with weeping to the Lord, 
Repent O London, least for thine offence, 
Thy shepheard faile, whom mightie God preserve, 
That she may bide the pillar of his Church, 
Against the stormes of Romish Antichrist : 
The hand of mercy overshead her head, 
And let all faithful subjects say, Amen} 

The Loo king-Glass is not constructed on classical lines; it has 
no formal prologue and epilogue, no act and scene divisions. 
Instead, it consists of a series of scenes introducing in succession 
three sets of characters who need to repent; then, after depict- 
ing Jonas's own sin and repentance, a series showing the 
repentance of each of the three groups in turn as a result of 
Jonas's preaching. The spectacle is ingeniously devised and as 
memorable as that to be expected in the decade of the Spanish 
Tragedy and Doctor Faustus. Like all the Bible plays it followed 
in its structure a current fashion in secular plays. 

The first set of characters is introduced with Rasni, king of 
Ninivie, celebrating with the kings of Cecilia, Creete, and 

1 Quoted from the Mai. Soc. edition. The lesson of the play is that of Newes 
from Ninive to Englande brought by the prophete Jonas, trans, by T. Tymme from 
J. Brentius and published in 1570. It admonished: 

Repent England in time, 

as Nineve that Citie did 

For that thy sinnes before the Lorde, 

are not in secret hid. 



Paphlagonia, the overthrow of Jereboam, king of Jerusalem. 
Rasni boasts in the Tamburlaine vein and announces his 
marriage to his sister Remilia, though Cecilia's king calls such 
a marriage incestuous. Then the prophet Oseas is brought by 
an angel and 'set over the stage in a throne'. And there he 
sits in his throne over the stage to denounce the sins of the 
people as they obligingly come before him to commit their sins. 
Twelve times he speaks to decry their sins and to act as a chorus 
between the unmarked scenes. 

The second group of characters, in contrast to the first group, 
is made up of characters of the lower class usually reserved for 
comedy, 'the Clowne and his crew of Ruffians' including a 
smith. They speak prose in contrast to the royal group of the 
first scene, but they also are clearly sinners, fighting and going 
off to drink and wenches. 

The third group offers opportunity to exploit Lodge's 
alarum against usurers, for the usurer is shown dealing meanly 
and unjustly with a young gentleman and then with a poor man 
who is made to forfeit his cow. They too speak in prose. 

As Rasni commands a shrine for his love, his magi beat the 
ground with their rods, and a great arbour arises. There are 
thunder and lightning, a curtain is drawn, and Remilia is seen 
'strooken with Thunder, blacke', but Rasni is promised con- 
solation with the wife of the Paphlagonian king. A lawyer 
betrays his clients, and a judge and the usurer go off to feast 
together. A drunken brawl among the clown-and-ruffian set 
results in murder, but Rasni coming on the scene shows un- 
concern and proceeds to his adulterous wooing. The willing 
queen of Paphlagonia ingeniously gets rid of her husband by 
luring him to a poisoned drink. 

At last the Bible story commences as Jonas appears bemoaning 
the sins of Israel, and an angel comes to command him to go 
to Ninivie. Instead he decides to flee to Joppa and sail to 
Tharsus with merchants and seamen who appear opportunely 
bound for that city. [Here Lodge begins to show his knowledge 
of the seafaring man's life.] 

Other characters intrude on the Scriptural story briefly, and 
we are back in Ninivie for more sins. Rasni's parasitic adviser 



refuses to honour his parents, and when his mother curses him, 
'a flame of fire appeareth from beneath' and swallows him. 
The clown makes love to the smith's wife and gets a beating. 

As we return to the Bible and Joppa, the very wet sailors 
and merchants come dripping from the sea to tell the governor 
of Joppa of the great storm (certainly a Lodge contribution), 
of their casting Jonas into the sea at his demand to appease the 
fury of his God, and of their own conversion from paganism 
by these events. Then comes the scene which has made the 
story famous, for Jonas is * cast out of Whales belly uppon the 
Stage', and an angel again appears to send him on his way to 

Still more sins are enacted for Oseas to denounce, and there 
is more spectacle. Rasni's wooing of the murderous queen is 
interrupted by the priests of the sun, ' With the miters on their 
heads, carrying fire in their hands ' and rehearsing the terrible 
omens that have appeared when 'A hand from out a cloud, 
threateneth a burning sword'. After the clown has fought with 
and killed one dressed as a devil, and the parasite's family has 
tried to pawn stolen goods to the usurer, Jonas arrives calling 
them to repentance, and an angel removes the prophet Oseas, 
leaving Jonas to effect the conversion of Ninivie. 

As Jonas preaches, it is first the members of the court who 
repent and take to sackcloth and ashes. Then the usurer comes 
' with a halter in one hand, a dagger in the other', and is further 
tempted to the final sin of despair, self-slaughter, by an evil 
angel ' offering the knife and rope'. But he seems to hear a 
voice bidding him stay, for the Lord is merciful to those who 
repent, and he too in sackcloth turns to prayer. It is a scene 
reminiscent of Spenser's Cave of Despair, of a scene in Doctor 
Faustus, and indeed of the many accounts of cases of conscience 
which the age produced. 1 The king and his nobles join the 
usurer to go to the temple. 

Jonas himself now has to learn the lesson of God's mercy. 
Sitting in the shade of a great vine, he sees a serpent devour 
the vine, and is moved to disgust and anger. The angel comes 

1 I have discussed the pattern established in these cases of despair in ' Doctor 
Faustus: A Case of Conscience', P.M.L.A. (1952), vol. lxvii, pp. 219-39. 



to tell him that even as he sorrows for the good vine, so God 
sorrows over the people of Ninivie and is moved to pity by 
their repentance. All the Ninivites do indeed repent except the 
clown, who refuses to fast for five days as the king has decreed 
even on pain of death. As all turn to God, Jonas recites his 
final admonitions to London which must serve as an epilogue 
to the drama. 

Greg has called this a morality, Law calls it a miracle, but no 
one seems to have related it, not to these medieval genres but 
to the ( divine' or Biblical drama recognized in England as well 
as in Europe. But again I must stress the fact that it was 
following a current method of writing plays for the public 
stage as a series of events without the classical observance of 
act and scene division. Furthermore, when spectacle was valued 
for its variety and ingenuity, the popular taste was appealed to 
by a prophet sitting over the stage in a great throne, a bower 
rising magically through a trap-door, thunder and lightning 
with a lady ' strucken Blacke ' by the thunder, a flame springing 
up to devour a man, a whale belching forth a man on the stage, 
a procession of priests carrying fire in their hands, a hand out of 
a cloud threatening with a burning sword, a vine that appears 
and is eaten up by a serpent, not to speak of angels. Surely the 
offering could compete with any presented in the contemporary 
theatre. Besides, there are incest and murder and low-comedy 
horseplay and sound moral and religious teaching. The recipe 
has had long success in the commercial theatre and the moving- 
picture industry. 

It remained for George Peele to write a divine play in the 
tradition of divine poetry. THE LOVE OF KING DAVID 
AND FAIR BETHSABE. With the Tragedie of Absalon 1 is 
clearly the work of a poet experimenting with a Biblical play, 
but as a drama it cannot be judged fairly since it has come down 
to us in what is clearly a mutilated form. Its history is un- 
certain. It was entered on the Stationers' Register in 1594 but 

1 No. 160 in Bibliography. Text from W. W. Greg, Mai. Soc. Reprints (191 2). 
Greg divides the play into seventeen scenes. J. M. Manly, Specimens of the Pre- 
Shakespearean Drama (Boston and London, 1900), vol. 11, pp. 419-86, divided it 
into three acts and numbered scenes. Spellings of Bethsabe and Rabath vary in 
the text. 

*5 2 


apparently was not published until 1599. The title-page says 
that 'it hath ben divers times plaied on the stage', but unless 
the 1602 entry in Henslowe's diary for the poles and workman- 
ship * for to hange absolome ' refers to its production then, there 
is no record known of its performance. 

That Peele should have experimented with a divine drama is 
not surprising, for as early as 1589 Thomas Nashe called him 
'the chiefe supporter of pleasance now living, the Atlas of 
Poetrie and primus verborum Artifex, whose first encrease, the 
Arraignement of Paris, might plead to your opinions his preg- 
nant dexteritie of wit and manifold varietie of invention, where- 
in {mejudice) hee goeth a step beyond all that write \ x Like Greene 
and Lodge he is classed as one of the university wits in histories 
of English literature. He had his Oxford B.A. in 1577-8, his 
M. A. in 1 5 79, but he stayed on in Oxford until 1 5 8 1 . He trans- 
lated a play of Euripides, perhaps during his Oxford years, and 
in 1583 he went back to supervise the production of two of 
William Gager's plays. 2 His original dramas show that he was 
always experimenting with new types. His Arraignment of Paris 
is the only play that has survived to give us an echo of the old 
satyr play, Edward I is an early chronicle play, The Old Wive y s 
Tale uses an induction to introduce the romantic folk-tale plot 
which is echoed in Milton's Comus. 

Peele wrote his play as a poet fully conscious of the traditions 
of divine poetry, and certain passages were derived from the 
great work of Du Bartas.3 He does not use Bible story as just 
another narrative to make into drama, however, but as a plot 
on which to build a divine drama. He uses the Bible as a frame 
of reference in his figures of speech, in the lyric forms he 
introduces, in the very words his characters speak. He chose 
a divine hero, ' Joves musition', and invokes a divine muse in 
his prologue as the divine poets were doing. That Peele was 
also aware of the classical literature and the secular poetry of 

1 Smith, vol. 1, p. 319. 

2 D. H. Home, The Life and Minor Works of George Peel (New Haven, 1952), 
the first volume of an edition of Peele's works proposed with C. T. Prouty as 
general editor. See also Chambers, EIt%. Stage, vol. in, pp. 458-9. 

3 See H. Dugdale Sykes, 'Peek's Borrowings from Du Bartas', Notes and 
Queries, ser. 13, voI.cxlvii, pp. 348-51; and Home, pp. 93-4. 



his own time is evident in his prologue in the epic tradition, in 
the epithalamium and in the elegy introduced into the narrative, 
but he composes them in the tradition of divine poetry. 

The original form of the play or plays is uncertain, as I have 
already noted. The title indicates that two stories are to be told, 
the love of David and Bethsabe and the tragedy of Absalon, 
which might well have been made into separate dramas, but 
Peele has linked them with a third which is indeed a part of the 
Biblical account. The events covered in the play begin with the 
eleventh chapter of the Second Book of Samuel where David, 
having remained in Jerusalem while his armies are besieging 
Rabath, falls in love with Bath-Sheba. The twelfth chapter 
continues the story of their love and records the final crowning 
of David in Rabath. The story which Peele uses in his drama 
as a connecting link is complete in the thirteenth chapter, the 
story of Absalon's vengeance for the rape of Thamar by Ammon. 
The third story, of Absalon's treachery, his rebellion against 
David, and his defeat begins in the fourteenth chapter. What 
Peele tried to do was to weave the three stories into a continuous 
whole, changing the sequence of events as he found necessary. 
Then he introduced Solomon at the end of the play as a fore- 
taste of things to come. The play as it exists is divided into 
three parts (perhaps called discourses originally) by a chorus. 

It is as a divine epic that the play begins, with the prologue 
first announcing the theme : 

Of Israels sweetest singer now I sing, 
His holy stile and happie victories, 

Of this sweet Poet Joves Musition, 

And of his beauteous sonne I prease to sing. 

Then comes the invocation to his divine muse: 

Then helpe devine Adonay to conduct, 
Upon the wings of my well tempered verse, 
The hearers minds above the towers of Heaven 
And guide them so in this thrice haughty flight, 
Their mounting feathers scorch not with the fire, 
That none can temper but thy holy hand: 
To thee for succour flies my feeble muse, 
And at thy feet her yron Pen doth use. 



If there is a suggestion of Icarus in the prologue, the opening 
scene of the play likewise shows Peek's David as having an 
experience strikingly like that of Chapman's Ovid in Ovids 
Banquet of Sence. 1 The Bible says simply that David from the 
roof of the king's house 'saw a woman; and she was very 
beautiful'. Chapman's Ovid found a way into the emperor's 
court, and there 

in an Arbor whereof, Corynna was bathing, playing upon her Lute, 
and singing ; which Ovid over-hearing, was exceeding pleasde with 
the sweetnes of her voyce, & to himselfe uttered the comfort he 
conceived in his sence of Hearing. 

So the odours used in her bath make their appeal to his sense of 
smell, her beauty to the sense of sight, a kiss to the sense of 
taste. (Chapman chastely omitted any appeal to the fifth sense.) 
In Peek's play, the Prologue 

drawes a curtaine, and discovers Bethsabe with her maid bathing 
over a spring : she sings, and David sits above vewing her. 

Her song is one of conscious modesty, concluding, 

Let not my beauties fire, 
Enflame unstaied desire, 
Nor pierce any bright eye, 
That wandreth lightly. 

The apostrophe which follows carries the suggestion of the 
appeal to the sense of touch as well as to the sense of smell, 
though the reference is Biblical: 

Come gentle Zephire trickt with those perfumes 
That erst in Eden sweetned Adams love, 
And stroke my bosom with the silken fan : 

Then decke thee with thy loose delightsome robes, 

And on thy wings bring delicate perfumes, 

To play the wantons with us through the leaves. 

David's response is like that of Ovid : 

What tunes, what words, what looks, what wonders pierce 
My souk, incensed with a suddain fire, 

1 Printed London, 1585. The S.T.C. does not record an entry in the Stationers' 



but Peele keeps still the Bible as the frame of reference: 

Faire Eva plac'd in perfect happinesse, 
Lending her praise-notes to the liberall heavens, 
Strooke with the accents of Arch-angels tunes, 
Wrought not more pleasure to her husbands thoughts, 
Then this faire womans words and notes to mine. 

As David summons Cusay to fetch the woman, she is 

Fairer then Isacs lover at the well, 

Brighter then inside barke of new hewen Caedar, 

Sweeter then flames of fine perfumed myrrhe. 

His epithalamium as she is brought in to him has too a Biblical 

Now comes my lover tripping like the Roe, 
And brings my longings tangled in her haire 

Open the dores, and enterteine my love, 

Open I say, and as you open sing, 

Welcome faire Bethsabe King Davids darling. 

To leave Peek's methods of writing divine poetry and con- 
tinue the consideration of his dramatic plot, we find David 
quieting Bethsabe's scruples by ordering Cusay to fetch her 
husband, who is fighting under Joab at Rabath. Then a spectacle 
of war is presented. The tower which provides the inhabitants 
of Rabath with water is taken just as the message reaches Joab 
to send Urias home. 

At this point the love story is interrupted to introduce 
Thamar going at the king's command to minister to her brother 
Ammon in his supposed illness. The rape of Thamar takes place 
off-stage while the pandering conspirator Jonadab soliloquizes 
concerning it. Rudely thrust from Amnion's tent, Thamar 
somewhat incongruously compares herself to Eva expelled 
from the Garden of Eden, but Absalon comes to comfort her 
and to promise that he will avenge her wrongs. He then goes 
to David and invites him to his sheep feast. The king refuses 
but grants his request that Ammon shall go with the other lords 
to the feast. 

We return to the story of David and Bethsabe to hear Urias 
giving an account of the Rabath battle. Twice David urges him 



to rest and to go home to his wife, and twice Urias refuses to 
accept the lure. He drinks to the king's health but skilfully 
avoids drinking the health of the king's children proposed by 
Absalon. Defeated in craft, David orders Urias back to Rabath 
carrying a letter to Moab which sends him to the forefront of 
danger. The first part of the drama is here ended with the chorus 
sorrowing over the sin of the king but also giving an account 
of the events which must be understood to have happened 
before the next part begins : 

Urias in the forefront of the wars, 
Is murthered by the hateful Heathens sword, 
And David joies his too deere Bethsabe, 
Suppose this past, and that the child is borne, 
Whose death the Prophet solemnly doth mourne. 1 

The second section of the drama reveals Bethsabe and David 
mourning for the child of their love who is sick unto death, and 
sorrowing for the sin that is so punished. Nathan the prophet 
comes to rebuke David, telling the parable of the rich man who 
seizes the poor man's one ewe lamb, and pronouncing the 
curse upon him which we are to see fulfilled. Evil in his own 
house will rise against him, and his wives will be taken by 
another. Yet as David repents, Nathan prophesies that he shall 
live, though his child must die. When news is brought that the 
child is indeed dead, David feels that his shame is blotted out 
and turns to comforting Bethsabe and praising the Lord of 
hosts. A banquet is set before those assembled with the king 
and to the accompaniment of many instruments * They use all 
solemnities together, and sing, &c.' Then David becomes the 
man of war and prepares to set off for Rabath lest Joab claim 
the glory of victory. 

The Tragedie of Absalon announced on the title-page now 
becomes the business of the stage. Though David's sons have 
supposedly set out for Absalon's sheep feast, we find Ammon 
welcoming them as his guests at the celebration. A mood of 
gaiety prevails while a ' company of sheepeheards ' dance and 
sing. The gathering is soon dispersed, however, for Absalon, 

1 The chorus closing the first section comprises 11. 572-95. 
17 2 57 cdp 


bent on avenging Thamar's wrongs, murders his brother host 
with poison in his drink and escapes, uttering defiant words. 

Peele put forward the final battle for Rabath at this point, and 
it is fought on the stage with alarums and excursions and the 
noise of drum and trumpet. The triumph of victory is soon 
overshadowed for David, however, for even as he is about to 
ascend the conquered throne, word comes of the events at 
Amnion's sheep feast. As he sits alone sorrowing for his dead 
son, a widow sent by Joab comes to plead for her son whose 
death is sought by their kindred because he has killed his 
brother. The death of now her only son will leave her desolate. 
Her story moves the king, and her plea that he forgive his own 
son Absalon is answered. Joab is ready with the repentant 
Absalon, who then remains on the stage as the others depart. 
His soliloquy marks the beginning of his rebellion against his 
father with his purpose to win the tribes of Israel announced. 

Swiftly events crowd the stage : David's grief over Absalon's 
treachery, compounded by his acceptance of it as a divine 
punishment for his own sins ; the strategy for Absalon's forces 
as planned by Achitophel brought to failure through its dis- 
covery by Cusay; David's urging that Absalon's life be spared; 
Achitophel ' solus with a halter ' uttering the words of despair 
that lead to self-slaughter. 1 Finally the scene is enacted the 
story of which is almost as famous as that of Jonah and the 
whale, for as Absalon goes forth to conquer, his long hair is 
caught in the branches of a tree, and helpless, he is dispatched by 
Joab's men, his body thrown into a ditch and covered with 
stones as the Bible decrees. The Chorus ends this part of the 
play, moralizing the story and announcing 

a third discourse of Davids life 
Adding thereto his most renowmed death, 
And all their deaths, that his death he judgd,. . . 2 

The third 'discourse' does not fulfil the promise of the 
Chorus, but it offers some surprises. First we find Absalon's 

1 Note a similar picture of despair in A Looking-G/ass, and see n. i on p. 251 

2 The chorus closing the second section comprises 11. 1647-58. The misplaced 
fragment follows, 11. 1659-63. 



forces surrendering to Joab, who makes a great speech. Then 
a group enters which includes one whose advent into the world 
or into the play has not been previously suspected, for Salomon 
comes with David and Bethsabe and the prophet Nathan and 
their train, making his parents' hearts glad with the precocious 
wisdom which may have seemed authorized by his Biblical 
reputation. The news of Absalon's death, however, throws 
David into such uncontrolled mourning that Nathan is forced 
to chide: 

These violent passions come not from above, 
David and Bethsabe offend the highest, 
To mourne in this immeasurable sort. 

In spite of this reproof David greets the victorious Joab 
bringing 'conquest pierced on his speare', 1 with such a torrent 
of reproach that he threatens to lead his armies to serve another 
king. Bethsabe speaks calming words, and suddenly David 
without any transition between moods speaks a formal elegy 
that shows Peele once more as the divine poet, the forerunner 
of Milton. In David's elegy Platonic Ideas seem to mingle 
with saints and angels, and 'the drinke of Seraphims' and 
'archangels food' substitute for the nectar and ambrosia of 
the pagan gods. There is a familiar ring to 

Thy eyes now no more eyes but shining stars, 

Shall decke the naming heavens with novell lampes. 2 

And it would seem that Saint Paul is in the poet's mind rather 
than David as the elegy closes : 

Thy day of rest, thy holy Sabboth day 
Shall be eternall, and the curtaine drawne, 
Thou shalt behold thy soveraigne face to face, 
With wonder knit in triple unitie, 
Unitie infinite and innumerable. 

1 The line must be compared with the line in the chorus preceding Act v in 
Shakespeare's Henry V which has been the subject of dispute, 'Bringing rebellion 
broached on his sword'. 

1 Compare : Two of the fairest stars in all the heaven, 
Having some business, do entreat her eyes. 
To twinkle in their spheres till they return. 

Romeo and Juliet, n. ii. 15-17 
See also in. ii. 21-5, and Lycidas, 11. 168-71. 




David is at peace with himself and with Joab as the play closes, 
the 'third discourse* having failed to complete the promised 

Peele seems to me to stand as the lone poet of the age to 
undertake a divine play conscious of its place in divine literature 
and aware of traditions and practices of the poets who were 
writing divine poems. The Bible stories which he linked to- 
gether to make his play were not embellished with additional 
characters or comic scenes, but with poetic ornaments in phrase 
and forms. He used an epic prologue, invoked a divine muse 
for the telling of a divine story. The comparisons are drawn 
from Biblical story, — Adam and Eve, Isaac and Rebecca, 
Pharaoh and the Red Sea, the cedars of Lebanon. The epitha- 
lamium and the elegy are treated as ornaments of divine poetry. 
Joab's great speeches are kept in the mood as they echo the 
language of the Bible. If the plot seems cluttered with episodes 
sufficient for three ' discourses ', Peek's play can, nevertheless, 
be recognized as a part of the divine literature of the sixteenth 



Allen, P. S., Erasmus, 14 n. 

All for Money, 206 

Apocrypha, The, as basis for drama, 

Aretino, 38, 39 

Penitential Psalms, 35-6 
Ariosto, 97 

I Suppositi, 203 
Ascham, Roger, Scholemaster, 182 
Atkin, James M., The Trial of George 
Buchanan, 155 

Baldwin, William, 108 

The Canticles or Balades of Salomon, 

42, 57-9 
Bale, John, 36, 187, 226-9 

Index Britannae Scriptorum, 176, 177, 

181, 189 
John the Baptist's Preaching, 226, 229, 

Kingjohan, 226 
The Chief Promises of God, nG, 229, 

230-1, 233 
The Temptation of Christ, 226, 229, 

The Three Laws, 227, 229, 232-3 
Barnes, Barnabe, 136-7 

A Divine Centurie of Spirituall 
Sonnets, 137-8 
Baroway, Isaac, ' Tremelius, Sidney and 
Biblical Verse', 55 n. 
'The Bible as Poetry', 56 n. 
Barthelemy, Christus Xylonicus, 1 79 
Baskerville, Charles R., Modern Philo- 
logy, 176 n., 177 
'A Prompt Copy of A Looking 
Glass', 246 n. 
Becon, Thomas, 32-3 
A New Catechism, 146 
Davids Harpe, 3 2-3 
Golden Boke of Christen Matrimonye, 3 2 
The New Pollecye of Warre, 33, 35 
Betuleius, 152, 153, 192 n. 

Sapientia Solomonis, 171-3, 175 
Beze, Theodore de, 56 

Life and Death of John Calvin, 56 

The Abraham Sacrifiant, 158-62, 
193, 203 
Bible, The 

Christian Literature based on, 2 
translation of, 3-4, 24-5 
inaccessibility of, 9 
return to, at Reformation, 10-11, 13 
as a record of real events, 1 5 
Erasmus advocates editions in 

vernacular, 17, 19 
in foreign languages, 20 
supreme authority of, in Church, 22 
Tyndale urges its availability to all, 

23-4, 25 
Tyndale's influence on, 25; edition, 

Coverdale's, 27 
Matthew's legalised, 27 
Great, 36, 57-8 
ballads based on, 74 
poetic narratives based on, 74-5 
epic poems based on, 93-107 
mirrors based on, 108-21 
epyllik based on, 122-9 
see also Drama, Divine; Poetry, 
Divine ; Psalms ; Song of Songs 
Blenerhasset, Thomas, 109 
Boas, Frederick S., University Drama in 
the Tudor Age, 174, 176m, 179 and 
n., 181, 183, 184, 190-1, 194 n. 
Boke ofBalettes, A, 28, 57 
Bonaccorso, De Vera Nobilitate, 192 

and n. 
Boysse, Ernest, Le Theatre des Jesuits, 

157 m 
Bradner, Leicester, 'Original Neo- 

Latin Dramas', 151 and n. 
Breton, Nicholas, The Blessed Weeper, 

Brice, Thomas, 46 
Brinsley, Ludus Literarius, 164 
Brooke, C. F. Tucker, The Shakespeare 

Apocrypha, 196 n. 
Buchanan, George, 84, 153-6, 166, 244 
Jephthes, 149, 153 ff. 
Baptistes, 153 ff., 185 



Burckhardt, Jacob, The Civilisation of 

the Renaissance in Italy , 12 
Burnet, Gilbert, The History of the 

Kef or motion, 225 n. 
Bush, Douglas, Mythology and the 

Renaissance Tradition, 1 22 n. 
Buxton, John, Sir Philip Sidney and the 

English Renaissance, 52 n., 84 n. 
Byrd, William, Psalmes, Sonets, 50 
Songs of Sundrie Natures, 50 

Calvin, John, 56 

Campbell, Lily B., Doctor Faustus, 

251 n. 
Scenes and Machines on the English 

Stage, 146 n. 
The Mirror for Magistrates, 121 n. 
Campbell, W. E., Erasmus, Tyndale and 

More, 14, 15, 16 n. 
Canti Carnascialeschi, 1 1-1 2 
Carver, P. L., The Comedy of Acolastus, 

163 n. 
Casady, Edwin, Henry Howard, Earl of 

Surrey, 40 n. 
Castalio, Sebastian, 56-7 
Chambers, E. K., Sir Thomas Wyatt, 

27-8, 28 n., 33, 34 
The Elizabethan Stage, 70 n., 161, 

194 n., 201 n., 206 n., 207 n., 

210 n., 215, 216 n., 222 n., 239, 

242 n., 243 n., 245 n., 247 
The Mediaeval Stage, 145, 149, 151 n., 

166, 167, 193, 194 n., 197, 224 n., 

226, 228 n., 234 n. 
Christianae Poeseos Opuscula, 152 
Christopherson, John, 183-5 
Churchyard, Thomas, Musicall Consort, 

Clapham, Henoch, A brief e of the Bible, 

Colet, Dr John, 3, 14-15, 16, 17 n., 

20, 24 
Comedia Sacra, 148-9 
Comoediae ac Tragoediae aliquot ex Novo 

et Vetere Testamento Desumptae, 

Constable, Henry, 133-4 

Spiritual Sonne ttes, 1 34-6 
Conti, Francisco, see Stoa, Quintianus 
Court of Venus, The, 28, 33, 46-7, 62-3 
Coverdale, Miles, 27-33, 34» 35 
first complete English Bible, 27 
indebted to Luther, 29, 30 

first English collection of divine 

songs, 27-8 
abridges Erasmus's Enchiridion, 32 
Goostly Psalms and Spirituall Songes, 
Craig, Hardin, English Religious Drama 
of the Middle Ages, 143 n., 151 n. 
Crei2enach, William, Geschichte des 

Neueren Dramas, 193 n., 194 n. 
Crocus, Cornelius, 148, 152 

Joseph, 151 
Crosse, Henry, Vertues Commonwealth, 

Davies, W. T., 'A Bibliography of 

John Bale', 226 n. 
Day, Richard, Christ Jesus Triumphant, 

Demaus, R., William Tyndale, 20 n., 

Dent, Arthur, The Plaine Mans Pathway 

to Heaven, 46 n. 
Drama, Classical, 146-7, 174-5 

see also Terence 
Drama, Divine 
neglect of, 141 
derivation of, 142 
in Latin, 142, 145, 163-73, 174-88 
differs from miracle play, 143 
imitates classical drama, 147, 21 1-1 5 
structure of, 147 

origin and development of, 149-57 
Jesuit contribution to, 157 
in France, 1 5 8-62 

use of in teaching translation, 163-6 
acted in schools, 166-73; un *~ 

versities, 174-6, 184, 185, 188 
in the universities, 176-91 
in English, 189-91, 192-206, 207- 

22, 223-37, 238-60 
shaped by secular Drama, 192-3 
influenced by English version of the 

Bible, 193 
based on the parable of the Prodigal 
Son, 194-205, 212-15; other 
parables, 206 
dibat and oration in, 207-1 1 
expansion of the Biblical story in, 

appearance of the morality play in, 

209 ff. 
preaching sound doctrine in, 211- 
18, 223 



earlier forms of, for the common 
people, 223 

becomes a vernacular drama, 223 ff. 

opposition to, 224-5 

as polemics, 226, 230-7 

performed publicly, 238-42, 246-60 

attacks on, 242-6 

see also Play, Miracle ; Play, Morality 
Drama, Humanistic, 225 
Drama, Secular, rise of new English, 

Dramata Sacra, 152 
Drant, Thomas, Medicinable Moral/, 

Drayton, Michael, 94 

David and Goliah, 105 

Moses, 103-5 

Noahs F loud, 105-6 

The Harmonie of the Church, 61-2, 103 

The Muses Eli^ium, 4 
Du Bartas, Saluste, lays down prin- 
ciples for divine poetry, 80 

visits King James, 81-2 

compared with Sidney, 85-6 

influence of, 84 ff., 94 ff.; on 
Spenser, 87 ff. 

Divine Weeks and Works, 97, 98-102, 
240 n. 

La Muse Chrestiene, 1, 75-80, 85 ff., 

La Judit, see La Muse Chrestiene 
L'Uranie, see La Muse Chrestiene 
The Furies, 82 

Eby, F., Early Protestant Educators, 

30 n. 
Ellis, G., The Lamentation of the Lost 

Sheepe, 121 
English Hexapla, The, 27 n. 
Epyllia, list of, 122 
definition of, 1 22 n. 
divine, 122-9 
Erasmus, Desiderius, 14-19, 20, 22, 23, 
M, *5> 29, 34 
friendship with Colet and More, 

learns Greek, 15 
edits Jerome's works, 15-17 
translates N.T. into Latin, 16-17, 19 
advocates editions of Bible in ver- 
nacular, 17, 19 
An Exhortation to the Diligent Studye 
of Scripture, 17-18, 24 

Enchiridion, 21, 32 
Moriae Encomium, 16 
Paraphrases, 19 

Farmer, John S., Early English Drama- 
tists, 195 n., 197 n., 199 n., 201 n., 
202 n., 210 n., 211 n. 
The Tudor Facsimile Texts, 230 n., 
231 n. 

Famham, William, The Medieval Heri- 
tage of Elizabethan Tragedy, 121 n. 

Fellowes, E. H., William Byrd, 50 n. 

Fenner, Dudley, The Songof Songs, 59-60 

Fenton, Geoffrey, A Forme of Christian 
Pollicie, 191, 207 
The Historie of Guicciardini, ion. 

Fisher, George W., Annals of Shrews- 
bury School, 168 n. 

Fletcher, J. B., 'Spenser's Fowre 
Hymnes', 91 

Forrest, William, edition of Psalms, 

History of Grisild, 95 n. 
History of Joseph, 94-5 
Foxe, John, 181, 228 

Actes and Monuments, 20, 21, 229 
Christus Triumphans, 185-8 
Foxwell, Miss A. K., The Poems of Sir 

Thomas Wiat, 35 n., 36, 38 
Fulke, William, Sincere and true transla- 
tions, 57 n. 

Gardiner, Father Harold C, Mysteries' 
End, 142 n. 

Garrett, Christina H., The Marian 
Exiles, 228 n. 

Garter, Thomas, Susanna, 219-22 

Gascoigne, George, The Glasse of 
Governement, 203-5 

Gilbert, Joseph E., 'The German 
Dramatist of the Sixteenth Cen- 
tury and His Bible', 158 n. 

Gnapheus, William, 148, 149 

Acolastus, 151, 163-4, 169-71, 175, 
194, 203 

Godly Queene Hester, 208-10 

Golding, Arthur, 158, 183 n. 

Googe, B., Eglogs, Epytaphes, and 
Sonettes, 176 

Gosson, Stephen, Plays Confuted, 244 
Schoole of Abuse, 75, 243 

Greene, Robert, The Myrrour of 
Modestie, 124-5 



Greenlaw, Edwin, 'Spenser's In- 
fluence', 89 n. 
Greg, W. W., Henslowe's Diary, see 
Materialen, 208 n. 
Respublica, 147 n. 

'The Baking of Betsy', 248 n., 252 
' The Lists and Banns of the Plays ', 
Grimald, Nicholas, 176-81, 203 
Arcbipropheta, 179-81 
Cbristus Redivivus, 177-9, I ^i 
Grimble,Ian, The Harington Family, 5 ^n. 
Grosart, A. B., Miscellanies of the Fuller 
Worth Library, 64 n. 

Hall, John, The Court of Vertue, 47-8 

The Proverbes of Salomon, 62-3 
Halliwell, James O., A Dictionary of 

Old English Plays, 207 n. 
Hanford, J. H., John Milton, 1 n. 
Harbage, Alfred, Annals of the English 

Drama, 1 79 n. 
Harington, Sir John, Psalms of, 54 
Harleian Miscellany, The, 231 
Harris, Jesse W., John Bale, 226 n., 

227 n. 
Hartwell, Abraham, Regina Literata, 

190 n. 
Hazlitt, W. C, Diana: The Sonnets 

and Other Poems of Henry Constable, 

134 ft. 
Hebel, J. W., and Hudson, Hoyt H., 

Poetry of the English Renaissance, 

46 n. 
Henslowe, Philip, 238-9 

Diary, 239 ff. 
Hepple, R. B., Terentius Christianus, 

156 n. 
Herford, C. H., Studies in the Literary 

Relations of England and Germany in 

the Sixteenth Century , 148, 149, 150, 

151, 152, 167, 186, 188, 194, 

204 n., 228 n. 
Heywood, Thomas, Apology for Actors, 

Higgins, John, The First Part of the 

Mirror for Magistrates, 109, no 
Historie of Guicciardini, The, ion. 
Historie of Jacob and Esau, 197, 211-15 
History of Jacob, The, 94 
Holstein, H., Das Drama vom ver- 

lornen Sohn, 206 n. 

Home, D. H., The Life and Minor 

Works of George Peel, 253 n. 
Hudson, Thomas, 136 

The Historie of Judith, 76 ff., 96-8 
Huizinga, J., Erasmus of Rotterdam, 15, 

16 and n., 21 n. 
Hunnis, William, 43 
Certayne Psalms, 43 
Genesis, 70-1 
Hunnies Recreations, 71 
Seven Sobs of a Sorrowfull Soule for 

Sinne, 49 
The Life and Death of Joseph, 93 

Ingeland, Thomas, The Disobedient 
Child, 199-201 

James, King, 81-3 

Psalms of, 54 

The Essay es of a Prentice, 77 

Poeticall Exercises, 82 
Jerome, St, 15-16, 18, 23, 24, 28-9, 34 

Erasmus's edition of, 15-17 

Letters, 15 
Jonson, Ben, The Staple of News, 166 

Timber, 55-6 
Josephus, as basis for drama, 142, 150 
Judicio, Returne from Parnassus, 136 
Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology, 31, 34, 

Just Man Jobe, The, no 

Knight, Samuel, The Life of Dr John 
Colet, 9 

Lathrop, H. B., Translations from the 

Classics into English, 145 
Law, R. A., 'A Looking Glasse and 

the Scriptures', 248, 252 
Lebegue, Raymond, La Tragedie 

Religieuse en France, 150-1, 151 n., 

154, 155, 158, 159, 161, 162 
Legend, definition of, 94 
Legge, Thomas, Richard Tertius, 168, 

Lewis, C. S., English Literature in the 

Sixteenth Century, 4, 34-5, 40, 

122 n. 
Lily, William, 164, 166 
Lodge Thomas, 243-4, 247-8 
An Alarum against Userers, 244 
Rosalynde, 247-8 
Wits Miserie, 246 



Lodge, Thomas, and Greene, Robert, 
A looking Glass for London and 
England, 246-52, 258 n. 
Lok, Henry, 136 

Ecclesiastes, 64-6, 133 

Sundry Christian Passions, 65-6, 1 30-3 

Loukovitch, Kosta, La Tragedie 

Keligieuse Classique en France, 

161 n. 

Luther, Martin, 12 n., 21, 22, 27, 31, 

attitude to divine songs, 29-30 
publishes book of spiritual songs, 

Colloquia Mensalia, 29 
Lyly, John, 65 
Eupbues, 205 

McCabe, W. H„ 157 

McClure, N. E., The Letters and 

Epigrams of Sir John Harington, 

53 n. 
McCusker, Honor, John Bale, 226, 

227 n., 228 n. 
McGiffert, A. C, Martin Luther, 

12 n. 
Machiavelli, Nicholas, 10 

The Discourses upon the First Decade 

of Titus Livius, 10 
Macropedius, George, 148, 149, 152, 

Asotus, 151, 187, 195 
Rebelles, 194 
Mangan, J. J., Life, Character and 

Influence of Desiderius Erasmus of 

Rotterdam, 17 n. 
Manly, J. M., Specimens of the Pre- 

Shakespearean Drama, 252 n. 
Marbecke, John, The Holie Historie of 

King David, 93 
Marie Magdalens Lamentations, 120-1 
Markam, Gervase, Tears of the 

Beloved, 120 
Markham, Gervaise, Poem of Poems, 

60- 1 
Marot, Clement, 36-8, 52 

Psaumes de David, 37 
Martin, Gregory, The Manifold Cor- 
ruptions of the Holy Scriptures, 

57 n. 
Martyr, Peter, Common Places, 5 
Martz, Louis L., The Poetry of Medita- 
tion, 116 n. 

Mason, H. A., 'Wyatt and the 

Psalmes', 36 n. 
Medwall, Henry, Fulgens and Lucrece, 

Melvil, Sir James, Memoires, 82 n. 
Merrill, L. R., The Life and Poems of 

Nicholas Grimald, 176 n., 177, 

179 n. 
Miller, D. A., George Buchanan: A 

Memorial, 153 n. 
Milton, John, 3, 4, 5 
divine poetry of, 1 
Mirror for Magistrates, 108-9 
Misciattelli, Piero, Savonarola, 11 n., 

12 n. 
Misogonus, 201-3 
Mitchell, A. F., A Compendious Book 

of Godly and Spiritual Songs, 32 n. 
More, Hannah, Sacred Dramas, 141 
More, Sir Thomas, 14, 16, 192 

Dialogue against Tyndale, 24 
Morley, Thomas, A Plaine and Easie 

Introduction to Practical Musicke, 

Mozley, J. F., John Foxe and His Book, 

181 n. 
William Tyndale, 20 n. 
Muir, Kenneth, Collected Poems of Sir 

Thomas Wyatt, 35 n., 38 n. 
Mullinger, James B., The University of 

Cambridge, 9 
Munday, Anthony, Retrait from Plaies 

and Theaters, 244-5 
The Mirrour of Mutahilitie, 1 1 2-1 3 
Music, divine poetry set to, 11-12, 

3°-3> 34-45, 49-50 

Naogeorgus, 152, 153 

Pammachius, 175, 188 
Nashe, Thomas, Christ s Tears over 
Jerusalem, 6 
Summers Last Will and Testament, 170 
The Unfortunate Traveller, 169 
Niccols, Richard, A Mirror for Magis- 
trates, 109-10 
Nice Wanton, 197-8, 213-14 
Noodt, Vander, A Theatre for World- 
lings, 87 

Oldham, J. Basil, A History of Shrews- 
bury School, 168 n. 

Osborn, A. W., Sir Philip Sidney en 
France, 84 n. 



Osgood, C. G., and Lotspeich, H. B., 
The Works of Edmund Spenser, 

Padelford, F. M., The Poems of Henry 
Howard, Earl of Surrey, 34, 35, 40, 
Palsgrave, John, 163-4, 169-70, 195 
Paradise, N. Burton, Thomas Lodge, 

243 n., 248 n. 
Paradise of Daintie Devises, The, 46 
Park, Thomas, Nugae Antiquae, 5 3 n. 
Parker, Matthew, Whole Psalter, 49 
Peele, George, The Love of King David 

and Fair Bethsabe, 252-60 
Pembroke, Countess of, 52-4 
Phillips, James E., 'George Buchanan 

and the Sidney Circle', 84 n. 
Pinder, Peter, 141 

Play, Miracle, differs from divine 
drama, 141-2 

form of, 143 

for the common people, 223-5 

opposition to, 224 
Play, Morality, 224-5 
Playford, John, Psalms & Hymns, 43, 

Poetical Rhapsody, A, 46 
Poetry, Divine, 1 ff. 

definition of, 4-6 

substituted for secular, 5 

used by Savonarola to combat 
practices of the time, 1 1-1 2 

produced at court, 34 

psalms as, 35-45, 48-54 

absence of, in Mary's reign, 46 

as rival to secular poetry, 47-54, 75 

Songs of Songs as, 56-62 

Proverbs as, 62-3 

Ecclesiastes as, 63-6, 87 

attempts to translate whole Bible 
into, 67-8 

Acts of the Apostles as, 69-70 

Genesis as, 70-1 

Jeremiah as, 72-3 

based on Bible stories, 74-5 

Du Bartas's ideas on, 78-80 

principles of, 80 

Spenser turns to, 86-91 

based on Biblical heroes, 93-107 

epic as, 93-107 

mirror as, 108-21 

epyllia as, 1 22-9 

sonnets as, 130-9 
see also Songs, Divine 
Pooler, G. Knox, Shakespeare's Poems, 

Pratt, Waldo S., The Old French 

Psalter, 37 n. 
Praz, Mario, 'Robert Southwell's 

"Saint Peter's Complaint'", 

116 n. 
Printing, effect of on learning, 9, 

Psalms, The 

Wyatt's versions, 35, 38-9 

Marot's, 36-8 

Surrey's, 39-40 

other court versions, 40-4, 45 

first complete, 44-5 

later versions, 48-54, 63, 65 

set to music, 49-50 

Sidney's views on, 51-2 

variety of metres in, 5 2 
Purdie, Edna, 'Jesuit Drama', 157 n. 

Raleigh, The History of the World, 2 
Rand, E. K., Founders of the Middle 

Ages, 1 8 n. 
Rastell, John, 192 

Calisto and Melebea, 193 
Reed, A. W., Early Tudor Drama, 
192 n. 

Review of English Studies, 176 n., 177 
Renwick, W. L., Daphnaida, 90 n. 

Spenser's Complaints, 88 

The Shepheardes Calendar, 37 n. 
Resurrection of Our Lord, The, 235-7 
Ringler, William 

Stephen Gosson, 243 n. 

'The Elizabethan Attack on the 
Stage', 238 n., 242 
Ristine, F. H., English Tragicomedy, 

160 n. 
Robinson, Richard 

Histories for Christian Recreation, 


The Rewarde of Wickednesse, 1 10-12 
Robinson, Thomas, The Life and Death 

of Mary Magdalene, 95-6 
Roche, Robert, The Constancie of 

Susanna, 125-7 
Rowlands, Richard, Odes in Imitation 

of the Seven Penitential Psalms, 

Rowlands, Samuel, Poems, 1 18-19 



Sabie, Francis, Adams Complaint, 
i 14-15 
David and Beersheba, 114, 122-4 
The Old World's T rage die, 106-7, ll 4 
Sachs, Hans, 158 n., 193 
Sackville, Thomas, 108-10 
Saint Marie Magdalens Conversion, 127-9 
Samuel, William 

An Abridgement of all the Canonical 

Books of the Old Testament, 68 
The Abridgemente of Goddes Statutes, 
Sandys, J. E., A History of Classical 

Scholarship, 145 
Savonarola, Girolamo, 10-13, I 4 -I 5, 
24, 29, 34, 151 
Expositio ac Meditatio in Psalmum 

Misereri Mei, 1 2 n. 
Laudi Spirituali, 12, 34 
Sayce, R. A., The French Biblical Epic, 

96 n. 
Saynt Johan the Evangelyst, 234-5 
Schnitzler, Henry, 'The Jesuit Con- 
tribution to the Theatre', 157 
Schonaeus, Cornelius 

Terentius Christianas, 156, 164-6, 169 
Scott, J. G., Les Sonnets £lisabetbains, 

130 n. 
Seager, Frances, Certayne Psalmes, 44-5 
Seebohm, Frederic, The Oxford Re- 
formers, 14-15, 20 
Seneca, Christian, see Comedia Sacra 
Sharpe, R. B., The Real War of the 

Theatres, 242 
Sidney, Sir Philip, 50-3, 84, 87 
compared with Du Bartas, 85-6 
translates Du Bartas, 53, 85, 98; The 
Trewnesse of the Christian Religion, 5 3 
Apology for Poetry, 2, 4, 51-2, 85-6 
Psalms, 52-3 
Sir Thomas More, 196, 199 
Smith, G. C. Moore, Gabriel Harvey's 

Marginalia, 87 n. 
Smith, G. Gregory, Elizabethan Critical 
Essays, 41 n., 52 n., 55 n., 60 n., 
71 n., 75 n., 83 n., 136 n., 182 n., 
184 n., 243 n. 
Smith, Hallett, Elizabethan Poetry, 
121 n. 
'English Metrical Psalms', 41, 
43 n., 52 
Smith, Jud, The Spirituali and Godlye 
Love, 59 

Smith, Preserved, Luther's Table Talk, 

29 n. 
Smith, Preserved, and Jacobs, C. N., 

Luther's Correspondence, 30 n. 
Song of Songs, The, theological 
position of, 56 
Baldwin's version, 42, 57-9 
later metrical versions, 59-62 
Songs, Divine, 27-33 
Sonnet, The, 130 
divine, 130-8 
Surrey's, 39 
Southwell, Robert, Mary Magdalens 
Complaint, 118 
Saint Peters Complaint, 11 6- 18 
Spengler, Franz, Der verlorene Sohn, 

206 n. 
Spenser, Edmund, 50, 60, 86, 108 
turns to divine poetry, 86-7 
interested in Du Bartas, 87 ff. 
Complaints, 86-7 
Fowre Hymnes, 89 
Hymne of Heavenly Beautie y 90 
Ruines of Rome, 87 
The Teares of the Muses, 87-8 
Stafford, Helen G. , James VI of Scotland, 

100 n., 131 n. 
Stein, Harold, Studies in Spenser's Com- 
plaints, 88 
Sternhold, Thomas, 41, 43', 44 

writes Psalms in ballad measure, 42 
Certayne Psalmes, 41, 48 
Stevenson, R. M., Patterns of Protestant 

Church Music, 93 n. 
Stoa, Quintianus, 150-1, 152 
Christiana Opera, 150 
Theoandrothanatos, 150, 152 
Theocrisis, 150 
Stopes, Mrs C. C, William Hunnis, 

43 n., 210 n. 
Story of King Daryus, The, 210-1 1 
Stubbes, Phillip, The Anatomie of 

Abuses, 245-6 
Stymmelius, Studentes, 195 
Surrey, Henry Howard, Earl of, 28, 

34-5, 39-4o, 63-4 
Sykes, D. Dugdale, 'Peele's Borrow- 
ings from Du Bartas', 253 n. 
Sylvester, Joshua, translates Du Bartas, 
91-2, 98-102 

Taylor, G. C, 'The Christus Redivivus 
of Nicholas Grimald', 179 n. 



Terence, 142 ff., 170 

Andria, 145 
Terence, Christian, see Comedia 

Testament, New, translated into Latin, 

16-17; English, 19, 22 
Testament, Old, partly translated into 
English, 22 
as basis for drama, 142 
and see under Bible 
Textor, Ravisius, 175, 199 

Juvenis Pater et Uxor, 194 
Theater of Delightful Recreation, A, 

Tilley, M. P., Proverbs in England, 

147 n. 
Tillotson, Kathleen, The Works of 
Michael Drayton, 4-5, 61, 105, 
122, 128 
Tillyard, E. M. W., The Poetry of Sir 

Thomas Wyatt, 35 n., 38 
Tottel, publishes Songes and Sonnettes, 

Tretise of Miraclis Pleyinge, 224 
Turner, Celeste, Anthony Mundy, 

112 n. 
Tye, Christopher, 68-70 

The Acts of the Apostles, 69-70 
Tyndale, William, 20-6, 27, 29, 34 
early life, 20-1 
consults Luther, 21-2 
N.T. in English, 22 
parts of O.T. in English, 22 
urges that the Bible should be avail- 
able to all, 23-4 
controversy with More, 24 
influence on later editions of the 

Bible, 25 
translates Enchiridion, 21 
The Obedience of a Christian Man, 

Udall, Nicholas, 215 
E^echias, 189-91 
Ralph Roister Doister, 189-91 

Valla, Annotationes, 16 
Villari, Pasquale, The Life and Times of 
Girolamo Savonarola, 11, 12 

Wager, Lewis, The Life and Repentance 

of Marie Magdalene, 215-18, 232 
Wager, W., The Cruell Detter, 206, 218 
Walker Freer, Margaret, The Life of 

Marguerite d'Angouleme, 37 
Watson, Foster, The English Grammar 

Schools to 1660, 164 
Watson, Thomas, Absalon, 168, 182-3 
Westcott, A. F., New Poems by James I, 

82 n., 84 n., 131, 133, 134 
Westcott, Brooke F., History of the 

English Bible, 20, 25 
Wever, R., Lusty Juventus, 195-7 
Wharton, John, 59 
Wilson, D. Harris, King James VI 

and I, 83 n. 
Wilson, J. Dover, 'Euphues and the 

Prodigal Son', 205 n. 
Wood, Anthony a, Athenae Oxonienses, 

Wyatt, Sir Thomas, 28, 33, 34-5, 

38-9, 130 
puts Psalms into English verse, 35, 

38-9, 40 
Certayne Psalmes, 35 
Wylley, Thomas, 233-4 

Young, Karl, The Drama of the Medieval 
Church, 223, 224 

Ziegler, Hieronymus, 153, 159 
Zocca, Louis R., Elizabethan Narrative 
Poetry, 75, 121 n. 



Date Due 
Returned Due 



DEC i 7 | 

396 . ft vJ 


m 2 5 TO 


APR 15 1 


w i 

APR 2 9 193f 

m 2 1 «■■ 



Divine poetry and drama in six main 
820 9C188dC2 

3 lEb£ 0327b SEMT 

Withdrawn trom UP. Surveyed to internet nremve