Chelsea. A room in More’s house.
(Sir Thomas More; Master Roper; Servingmen; Lady More; Players; Lord Mayor; Aldermen; Lady Mayoress; Ladies; Sir Thomas More’s Daughters; Servants; Inclination; Prologue; Wit; Lady Vanity; Luggins; Attendants)
More bustles about getting things ready for the dessert course. He is told that some players have come to offer their services, and More receives their leader. He chooses The Marriage of Wit and Wisdom from their selection of potential plays. More’s guests arrive in the chamber, and they all trade compliments. As they sit and wait for the play to begin, however, More is called over by one of the players who asks if they can wait a little longer, as they are lacking a false beard, which one of them has gone to fetch. More tells them to start anyway, certain that the fellow bringing the beard will return in time for his scenes. The play begins and goes well enough, until they reach the scene needing both beard and player. Seeing an opportunity, More stands up and takes on the role himself, improvising until the last player returns. By now, however, it’s time for dessert, so More dismisses the players. He sends a servant to pay them extremely well. More returns in haste, having been sent for to go to the Council immediately, and learns in passing that the servant tried to cheat the players. The servant tries to excuse himself by claiming he didn’t have enough money to give them the full sum, but More disbelieves him, realizing he hoped to keep the extra money for himself, and fires him. The players praise him. (294 lines)
Enter Sir Thomas More, Master Roper, and Servingmen setting stools.
Come, my good fellows, stir, be diligent;
Sloth is an idle fellow, leave him now;
The time requires your expeditious service.
Place me here stools, to set the ladies on.
Son Roper, you have given order for the banquet?
I have, my lord, and everything is ready.
Enter Lady More.
Oh, welcome, wife! Give you direction
How women should be placed; you know it best.
For my Lord Mayor, his brethren, and the rest,
Let me alone; men best can order men.
I warrant ye, my lord, all shall be well.
There’s one without that stays to speak with ye,
And bade me tell ye that he is a player.
A player, wife!—One of ye bid him come in.
Nay, stir there, fellows; fie, ye are too slow!
See that your lights be in a readiness:
The banquet shall be here. God’s me, madame,
Leave my Lady Mayoress! Both of us from the board!
And my son Roper too! What may our guests think?
My lord, they are risen, and sitting by the fire.
Why, yet go you and keep them company;
It is not meet we should be absent both.
Exit Lady More.
Enter Player of Inclination with Servant.
Welcome, good friend; what is you will with me?
My lord, my fellows and myself
Are come to tender ye our willing service,
So please you to command us.
What, for a play, you mean?
Whom do ye serve?
My Lord Cardinal’s grace.
My Lord Cardinal’s players! Now, trust me, welcome;
You happen hither in a lucky time,
To pleasure me, and benefit yourselves.
The Mayor of London and some aldermen,
His lady and their wives, are my kind guests
This night at supper. Now, to have a play
Before the banquet, will be excellent.
How think you, son Roper?
’Twill do well, my lord,
And be right pleasing pastime to your guests.
I prithee, tell me, what plays have ye?
Diverse, my lord. The Cradle of Security,
Hit Nail o’ the Head, Impatient Poverty,
The Play of Four Ps, Dives and Lazarus,
Lusty Juventus, and The Marriage of Wit and Wisdom.
The Marriage of Wit and Wisdom? That, my lads;
I’ll none but that; the theme is very good,
And may maintain a liberal argument:
To marry wit to wisdom, asks some cunning;
Many have wit, that may come short of wisdom.
We’ll see how Master poet plays his part,
And whether wit or wisdom grace his art.
Go, make him drink, and all his fellows too.
How many are ye?
Four men and a boy, sir.
But one boy? Then I see,
There’s but few women in the play.
Three, my lord; Dame Science, Lady Vanity,
And Wisdom she herself.
And one boy play them all? By our Lady, he’s laden.
Well, my good fellow, get ye straight together,
And make ye ready with what haste ye may.
Proud their supper ’gainst the play be done,
Else shall we stay our guests here over long.
Make haste, I pray ye.
We will, my lord.
Exit Servant and Player of Inclination.
Where are the waits? Go, big them play,
To spend the time a while.
Enter Lady More.
How now, madame?
My lord, th’ are coming hither.
Th’ are welcome. Wife, I’ll tell ye one thing;
One sport is somewhat mended; we shall have
A play tonight, The Marriage of Wit and Wisdom,
And acted by my good Lord Cardinal’s players;
How like ye that, wife?
My lord, I like it well.
See, they are coming.
The waits plays; enter Lord Mayor, so many Aldermen as may, the Lady Mayoress in scarlet, with other Ladies and Sir Thomas More’s Daughters; Servants carrying lighted torches by them.
Once again, welcome, welcome, my good Lord Mayor,
And brethren all, for once I was your brother,
And so I am still in heart. It is not state
That can our love from London separate.
True, upstart fools, by sudden fortune tried,
Regard their former mates with naught but pride.
But they that cast an eye still whence they came,
Know how they rose, and how to use the same.
My lord, you set a gloss on London’s fame,
And make it happy ever by your name.
Needs must we say, when we remember More,
’Twas he that drove rebellion from our door
With grave discretions mild and gentle breath,
Shielding a many subjects’ lives from death,
Oh, how our city is by you renowned,
And with your virtues our endeavors crowned!
No more, my good Lord Mayor. But thanks to all,
That on so short a summons you would come
To visit him that holds your kindness dear.
Madame, you are not merry with my Lady Mayoress
And these fair ladies; pray ye, seat them all:—
And here, my lord, let me appoint your place;—
The rest to seat themselves:—nay, I’ll weary ye;
You will not long in haste to visit me.
Good madame, sit; in sooth, you shall sit here.
Good madame, pardon me; it may not be.
In troth, I’ll have it so. I’ll sit here by ye.
Good ladies, sit. More stools here, ho!
It is your favor, madame, makes me thus
Presume above my merit.
When we come to you,
Then shall you rule us as we rule you here.
Now must I tell ye, madame, we have a play,
To welcome ye withal; how good so e’er,
That know not I; my lord will have it so.
Wife, hope the best; I am sure they’ll do their best:
They that would better, comes not at their feast.
My good Lord Cardinal’s players, I thank them for it,
Play us a play, to lengthen out your welcome:
They say it is The Marriage of Wit and Wisdom,
A theme of some import, howe’er it prove;
But, if art fail, we’ll inch it out with love.
Enter a Servant.
What, are they ready?
My lord, one of the players craves to speak with you.
With me? Where is he?
Enter Inclination, the Vice, ready.
Here, my lord.
How now! What’s the matter?
We would desire your honor but to stay a little; one of my fellows is but run to Oagles for a long beard for young Wit, and he’ll be here presently.
A long beard for young Wit! Why, man, he may be without a beard till he come to marriage, for wit goes not all by the hair. When comes Wit in?
In the second scene, next to the Prologue, my lord.
Why, play on till that scene come, and by that time Wit’s beard will be grown, or else the fellow returned with it. And what part playest thou?
Inclination the Vice, my lord.
Gramercies, now I may take the vice if I list. And wherefore hast thou that bridle in thy hand?
I must be bridled anon, my lord.
And thou beest not saddled too, it makes no matter, for then Wit’s inclination may gallop so fast, that he will outstrip Wisdom, and fall to folly.
Indeed, so he does to Lady Vanity; but we have no folly in our play.
Then there’s no wit in ’t, I’ll be sworn. Folly waits on wit, as the shadow on the body, and where wit is ripest there folly still is readiest. But begin, I prithee. We’ll rather allow a beardless Wit than Wit all beard to have no brain.
Nay, he has his apparel on too, my lord, and therefore he is the readier to enter.
Then, good Inclination, begin at a venter.
My Lord Mayor,
Wit lacks a beard, or else they would begin:
I’d lend him mine, but that it is too thin.
Silence, they come.
The trumpet sounds; enter the Prologue.
Now, for as much as in these latter days,
Throughout the whole world in every land,
Vice doth increase, and virtue decays,
Iniquity having the upper hand;
We therefore intend, good gentle audience,
A pretty short interlude to play at this present,
Desiring your leave and quiet silence,
To show the same, as is meet and expedient,
It is called The Marriage of Wit and Wisdom,
A matter right pithy and pleasing to hear,
Whereof in brief we will show the whole sum;
But I must be gone, for Wit doth appear.
Enter Wit ruffling, and Inclination the Vice.
In an arbor green, asleep whereas I lay,
The birds sang sweetly in the midst of the day,
I dreamed fast of mirth and play,—
In youth is pleasure, in youth is pleasure,
Methought I walked still to and fro,
And from her company I could not go;
But when I waked, it was not so,—
In youth is pleasure, in youth is pleasure.
Therefore my heart is surely plight,
Of her alone to have a sight,
Which is my joy and heart’s delight,—
In youth is pleasure, in youth is pleasure.
Mark ye, my lord, this is Wit without a beard. What will he be by that time he comes to the commodity of a beard?
Oh, sir, the ground is the better on which she doth go;
For she will make better cheer with a little she can get,
Than many a one can with a great banquet of meat.
And is her name Wisdom?
Ay, sir, a wife most fit
For you, my good master, my dainty sweet Wit.
To be in her company my heart it is set:
Therefore I prithee to let us begone;
For unto Wisdom Wit hath inclination.
Oh, sir, she will come her self even anon;
For I told her before where we would stand.
And then she said she would beck us with her hand.
Back with these boys and saucy great knaves!
Flourishing a dagger.
What, stand ye here so big in your braves?
My dagger about your coxcombs shall walk,
If I may but so much as hear ye chat or talk.
But will she take pains to come for us hither?
I warrant ye; therefore you must be familiar with her;
When she commeth in place,
You must her embrace
Least she think it danger,
Because you are a stranger,
To come in your company.
I warrant thee, Inclination, I will be busy:
Oh, how Wit longs to be in Wisdom’s company!
Enter Lady Vanity singing, and beckoning with her hand.
Come hither, come hither, come hither, come:
Such cheer as I have, thou shalt have some.
This is Lady Vanity, I’ll hold my life:—
Beware, good Wit, you take not her to wife.
What, unknown honesty? A word in your ear.
She offers to depart.
You shall not be gone as yet, I swear:
Here’s none but friends, you need not to fray;
This young gentleman loves ye, therefore you must stay.
I trust in me she will think no danger,
For I love well the company of fair women;
And though to you I am a stranger,
Yet Wit may pleasure you now and then.
Who, you? Nay, you are such a holy man,
That to touch on you dare not be bold;
I think you would not kiss a young woman,
If one would give ye twenty pound in gold.
Yes, in good sadness, lady, that I would:
I could find in my heart to kiss you in your smock.
My back is broad enough to bear that mock;
For it hath been told me many a time
That you would be seen in no such company as mine.
Not Wit in the company of Lady Wisdom?
Oh Jove, for what do I hither come?
Sir, she did this nothing else but to prove
Whether a little thing would you move
To be angry and fret:
What, and if one said so?
Let such trifling matters go
And with a kind kiss come out of her debt.
Is Luggins come yet with the beard?
Enter Prologue Player.
No, faith, he is not come. Alas, what shall we do?
Forsooth, we can go no further till our fellow Luggins come; for he plays Good Council, and now he should enter, to admonish Wit that this is Lady Vanity, and not Lady Wisdom.
Nay, and it be no more but so, ye shall not tarry at a stand for that; we’ll not have our play marred for lack of a little good council. Till your fellow come, I’ll give him the best council that I can. Pardon me, my Lord Mayor; I love to be merry.
Oh...Wit, thou art now on the bow hand,
And blindly in thine own opinion dost stand.
I tell thee, this naughty lewd Inclination
Does lead thee amiss in a very strange fashion:
This is not Wisdom, but Lady Vanity;
Therefore list to Good Council, and be ruled by me.
In troth, my lord, it is as right to Lugginses part as can be. Speak, Wit.
Nay, we will not have our audience disappointed, if I can help it.
Art thou Good Council, and will tell me so?
Wouldst thou have Wit from Lady Wisdom to go?
Thou art some deceiver, I tell thee verily,
In saying that this is Lady Vanity.
Wit, judge not things by the outward show;
The eye oft mistakes, right well you do know:
Good Council assures thee upon his honesty,
That this is not Wisdom, but Lady Vanity.
Enter Luggins with the beard.
Oh, my lord, he is come; now we shall go forward.
Art thou come? Well, fellow, I have hoped to save thine honesty a little. Now, if thou canst give Wit any better council than I have done, spare not. There I leave him to they mercy.
But by this time, I am sure, our banquet’s ready:
My lord and ladies, we will taste that first,
And then they shall begin the play again,
Which through the fellow’s absence, and by me,
Instead of helping, hath been hindered.
Prepare against we come. Lights there, I say!—
Thus fools oft times do help to mar the play.
Exeunt all but players.
Fie, fellow Luggins, you serve us handsomely; do ye not, think ye?
Why, Oagle was not within, and his wife would not let me have the beard; and, by my troth, I ran so fast that I sweat again.
Do ye hear, fellows? Would not my lord make a rare player? Oh, he would uphold a company beyond all hope, better than Mason among the king’s players! Did ye mark how extemprically he fell to the matter, and spake Lugginses part almost as it is in the very book set down?
Peace; do ye know what ye say? My lord a player! Let us not meddle with any such matters. Yet I may be a little proud that my lord hath answered me in my part. But come, let us go, and be ready to begin the play again.
I, that’s the best, for now we lack nothing.
Enter a Servingman.
Where be these players?
My lord is sent for to the court,
And all the guests do after supper part;
And, for he will not trouble you again,
By me for your reward a sends 8 angels,
With many thanks. But sup before you go:
It is his will you should be fairly entreated:
Follow, I pray ye.
This, Luggins, is your negligence;
Wanting Wit’s beard brought things into dislike;
For otherwise the play had been all seen,
Where now some curious citizen disgraced it,
And discommending it, all is dismissed.
’Fore God, ’a says true. But hear ye, sirs; eight angels, ha! My lord would never give eight angels more or less for twelve pence; other it should be three pounds, five pounds, or ten pounds. There’s twenty shillings wanting, sure.
Twenty to one, ’tis so. I have a trick. My lord comes; stand aside.
Enter More, with Attendants with purse and mace.
In haste to counsel! What’s the business now,
That all so late his highness sends for me?—
What seek’st thou, fellow?
Your lordship sent eight angels by your man,
And I have lost two of them in the rushes.
Wit, look to that:—eight angels! I did send them ten. Who gave it them?
I, my lord; I had no more about me;
But by and by they shall rescue the rest.
Well, Wit, ’twas wisely done; thou play’st Wit well indeed,
Not to be thus deceived of thy right.
Am I a man, by office truly ordained
Equally to decide true right his own,
And shall I have deceivers in my house?
Then what avails my bounty, when such servants
Deceive the poor of what the Master gives?
Go on, and pull his coat over his ears:
There are too many such. Give them their right.
Wit, let thy fellows thank thee. ’Twas well done;
Thou now deservest to match with Lady Wisdom.
Exit More with Attendants.
God a mercy, Wit!—Sir, you had a master Sir Thomas More more; but now we shall have more.
God bless him! I would there were more of his mind! A loves our quality; and yet he’s a learned man, and knows what the world is.
Well, a kind man, and more loving than many other. But I think we ha’ met with the first—
First served his man that had our angels; and he may chance dine with Duke Humphrey tomorrow, being turned away today. Come, let’s go.
And many such rewards would make us all ride, and horse us with the best nags in Smithfield.