1. Andrea Guarna’s 1512 Bellum Grammaticale, a humorous tale explaining the irregularities of Latin grammar by relating how they resulted from casualties suffered in a war between the nouns and the verbs, enjoyed great popularity throughout Europe. It was repeatedly reprinted in Italy, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Spain and Denmark, NOTE 1 and it engendered a large number of translations and literary imitations. NOTE 2 In England, France and Germany playwrights discovered that this story could adapted for the stage, and one such was the Oxford comedy. Bellum Grammaticale sive Nominum Discordia Civilis. NOTE 3 Previous doubts notwithstanding, on the basis of British Library ms. Harley 4048, fol. 74v it is certain that this was written by Leonard Hutten, a student of Christ Church, and acted at that college on December 18, 1581. NOTE 4 In September of 1592 Queen Elizabeth made a visitation to Oxford as a face-saving means of escaping the plague currently ravaging London, giving unusually short notice of her impending arrival. It was therefore not possible for the members of the university to prepare the amount of new literary works that normally supplied the entertainment for royal visitations. All that could be produced was William Gager’s play Ulysses Redux and John Sanford’s poem Apollonis et Musarum Εὐκτικὰ Εἰδύλλια (or at least the first 298 lines of the published version, which I believe to have been originally written as a masque meant to be performed on the occasion). These by themselves were insufficient, and so they were supplemented by revivals of Gager’s lost 1583 comedy Rivales and Hutten’s Bellum Grammaticale with a special new Prologue and Epilogue written by Gager.
2. Since Bellum Grammaticale was a dramatic adaptation of a preexisting literary work, Hutten’s scope for originality was obviously limited, but he went about his job intelligently. He took two steps designed to bring his play into the orbit of normal university comedy, which of course featured considerable imitation of Roman comedy, by including two stereotyped comic characters, the parasites Ille and Ubique, and by larding his play with plenty of verbiage appropriated from Plautus and Terence, in the usual academic way. In addition, he introduced one change which imparts a note of comfortable Englishness to his play. In Guarna, the war was brought to an end and its damage repaired, insofar as was possible, by the intervention of three famous Roman grammarians, Priscian, Servius, and Donatus. In Act V this is modified, so that the grammar professors doing the intervention are Priscian, Jean Despauters, Thomas Linacre, and William Lily. These were figures with whom the members of Hutten’ audience would have been very familiar. In the Renaissance Institutiones Grammaticae, written in eighteen Books by the sixth century grammarian Priscian was regarded as the definitive treatment of Latin grammar. Thomas Linacre [d. 1524] wrote an introductory Latin textbook in English (subsequently translated into Latin by Robert Buchanan) with the Latin title Progymnasmata Grammatices Vulgaria. The French schoolmaster Jean Despauters [d. 1520] was the author of Grammaticae Institutionis Libri Septem. William Lily [d. 1522], the first master of St. Paul’s School (and, incidentally, John Lyly’s grandfather), was the author A Short Introduction of Grammar generally to be used, the standard Latin textbook used in English schools throughout the sixteenth century. NOTE 5
3. Leonard Hutten [1557 - 1632] was a product of the Westminster School and came up to Oxford, where he matriculated from Christ Church as a Queen’s Scholar in 1575. NOTE 6 Graduated B. A. in 1578, proceeded M. A. in 1582, commenced B. D. in 1591, and admitted D. D. in 1600. Elected Canon of the seventh stall in 1599 (and subsequently Sub-dean of Christ Church), he subsequently received various ecclesiastical livings. Among the highlights of his career as a churchman was that he presided at the dedication ceremony for the Bodleian Library and was selected as K. J. V. translator (he was a member of the team that translated the Apocrypha). He was also devoted to antiquarian studies: Anthony à Wood reports having seen his Historia fundationis ecclesiae Christi Oxon., now lost, but his Antiquities of Oxford survives and may conveniently be read in Charles Plummer’s 1887 Elizabethan Oxford. Since in the 1580’s and 90’s Christ Church was a hotbed of theatrical and literary activity, it is not surprising that dramatics served as another avocation. A 1583 poem by William Gager (his poem CXXIV) contains a distich on every current member of Christ Church, and this is what he wrote about Hutten:
Seu scribenda siet comaedia seu sit agenda,
Primum, Hutton, potes sumere iure locum.
[“Whether a comedy has to be written or acted, Hutton, you can rightfully take first place.”]
This may be a specific reference to the 1581 performance of Bellum Grammaticale, in which case it constitutes evidence that Hutten acted in that play, but the possibility that he functioned as a playwright or actor on other occasions cannot be excluded. In any event, he succeeded in writing a play with remarkable longevity (that can only be matched by George Ruggle's 1615 Ignoramus), that was both acted and reprinted well into the eighteenth century).
4. The text of Bellum Grammaticale is preserved in the following sources:
British Library ms. Harley 4048, fol. 74, containing the Prologue only, with the heading Comoedia inscripta bellum Gramaticale acta apud Oxonienses in Aede Christi, Anno Domini 1581: Decembris 18, 1581
Bellum Grammaticale sive Nominum Verborumque discordia civilis Tragico-Comoedia, summo cum applausu olim apud Oxonienses in Scaenam producta, & nunc in omnium illorum qui ad Grammaticam animos appellunt oblectamentum edita, impensis Iohannis Spenceri with a dedicatory epistle by Spencer, London, 1635.
Bellum Grammaticae ad exemplar M. Alexandri Humii, In gratiam eorum, qui amoeniores Musae venerantur, editum (Edinburgh, 1658, repr., Glasgow, 1674, Edinburgh, 1698)
Bellum Grammaticale, sive Nominum Verborumque Discordia Civilis: Tragico:Comoedia ab eruditissimis Oxoniensibus adinventa, et summo cum applausu in Scenam producta, olim apud Oxonienses coram serenissima Elizabetha regina Anglorum, Iterum in Schola Pellionum, apud Tubrigienses, 1719, in Omnium illorum, qui ad Grammaticam Animos appellunt, oblectamentum edita. Excudebat Joh. Spencerus, Collegii Sionis Londinensis Bibliothecarius 1635. Editio Cura Richardi Spenceri, Scholi Tunbrigiensis Magistri, London, 1718 (repr. 1726, second ed. 1729).
5. On the basis of these three printed versions (which he identified respectively as A, B, and C) Johann Bolte produced an edition in his Andrea Guarnas und seine Nachahmungen, pp. 106 - 147). There are a number of differences between these three printed texts, but the variations are scarcely enough to warrant the conclusion that they represent different recensions. As is the case with the first edition of some other play-texts printed posthumously, or at least without the author’s supervision (such as those of William Alabaster’s Roxana and George Ruggle’s Ignoramus), A’s text is slovenly and disfigured with many foolish mistakes.The text of B is very similar to that of A, save that many of these mistakes have been corrected, and the only reasonable explanation of this state of affairs is to think that B has been set from from the same manuscript, by a printer who exercised considerably greater conscientiousness. Implicit in this remark is the suggestion that the ms. that served as the basis for our printed texts was one that had been owned by Alexander Hume [d. 1609], author of such works as Grammatica nova in usum iuventutis Scoticae ad methodum revocata, Of the Orthographie and Congruitie of the Britan Tongue; A Treates, noe shorter then necessarie, for the Schoole, and Prima elementa grammaticae in usum iuventutis Scoticae, as well as religious and poetic works, had then been borrowed by John Spencer, and then found its way back to Scotland, where it supplied the text for B. Richard Spenser, the editor of C, seems to have had both editions before him as he worked. Not fully understanding the true relation of A to B, he sometimes sometime selected better readings from B, but just as often retained A’s faulty ones; presumably this Richard Spencer was a descendent of John Spencer, so possibly familial pietas prevented him from fully grasping the badness of A. He managed to introduce a fair number of idiosyncrasies of his own, and it may not be out of the question that he also had access to some other, otherwise unknown textual source: C’s unique readings are recorded in Bolte’s notes. The text printed by Bolte was based on a collation of all three versions. When it came to selecting between printed variants, his choices were judicious, but he was not alive to the fact that all three printed editions preserve a text derived from a single ms., that of Hume, and that this was a copy ms. that itself contained corruptions which were therefore shared by all three printed texts. Thus he failed to observe bad readings shared by all three printed texts: by way of illustration, one can cite the egregious Cum maxime pugnant tum maxime fugiunt at 135f. and the meaningless ut si haec acciderit / Illa evaderent at 1184f. At least one significant passage seems to have dropped out of the text: see the commentary note on 143. Far worse, it is tolerably clear that in the book text the third and fourth scenes of Act IV have been wrongly transposed (see the note ad loc.).
6. I have used A as the basis for this edition (which in practice boils down to exercising special care to reporting A’s variants on my page of textual notes), not because it is the best of the three texts — obviously, it is not — but simply because it is the one that is most available and therefore the most familiar to modern readers, since a photographic reproduction has been published, NOTE 7 and also since it is the version selected for reproduction in the Early English Books microfilm series, and more recently in the Early English Books Online one. In this edition, needless to say, I am indebted to Bolte for his collation, yet I have exercised my independent judgment and so the resulting text is my own responsibility.
7. Like many other academic comedies, the original text of Bellum Grammaticale is written stichically, as if it were composed in verse, although it is actually prose. This traditional writing convention traditional for English academic comedy was evidently motivated by a desire to make texts look like those of the plays of Plautus and Terence, although the metrics of Roman comedy were not understood prior to the time of Bentley. Elsewhere I have provided reasons why a modern editor should abandon this practice and print such texts as straightforward prose (save, of course, for embedded songs and poetic quotations).
8. I wish to thank Dr. Martin Wiggins for suggesting a number of improvements for this edition.
NOTE 1 Cerny (p. 5) claimed that the only British literary response to Guarna’s work was the reprinting published in Aberdeen in 1623, but the London printer John Kingston issued Guarna’s work in 1574 and a William Hayward had already published a translation under the title A discourse of gret war and dissention betweene two worthy princes, the noune and the verb[e contending for the chiefe place of dignitie in oration in 1565. Additionally, the Hitchin schoolmaster Ralph Radcliffe wrote a lost work entitled De calamitosa et exitiali nominis et verbi, potentissimorum regum in regno grammatico, pugna libri II, for which cf. John Bale’s Index Britanniae Scriptorum, p. 333 of the 1902 Oxford edition.
NOTE 2 These are discussed at great length, and the texts of many imitations and adaptations are provided, by Johann Bolte, Andrea Guarnas Bellum Grammaticale und seine Nachahmungen (Monumenta Germaniae Paedagogica Band XLIII, Berlin, 1908).
NOTE 3 This play is discussed by Bolte pp. 36 - 40, Frederick S. Boas, University Drama in the Tudor Age (Oxford, 1914) 255 - 67, and Cerny pp. 5 - 13.
NOTE 4 Hutten’s authorship is firmly acknowledged by John Elliot et al., Oxford (Records of Early English Drama series, Toronto, 2004) II.803f.
NOTE 5 For the impact of all four of these figures on Tudor secondary-school education, see the respective index entries in T. W. Baldwin, William Shakespeare’s Smalle Latine & Lesse Greeke (Urbana, 1944).
NOTE 6 Much of the information in this paragraph comes from Peter Sherlock’s article in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
NOTE 7 Bellum Grammaticale sive Nominum Verborumque Discordia Civilis / Leonard Hutton (?), Thibaldus sive Vindictae Ingenium (printed 1640) / Thomas Snelling, prepared with an introduction by Lothar Cerny (Renaissance Latin Drama in England series I:12, Hildesheim - New York, 1982). In his title and throughout his introductory discussion, Cerny wrote the author’s name Hutton, as did William Gager in the above-quoted distich, but modern scholarship has settled on the spelling Hutten.