Introduction


spacer1. The play Felix Concordia Fratrum sive Ioannes et Paulus is preserved by Stonyhurst College Library ms. A.VII.50 (2), pp. 1 - 16. According to the collegiate Registrum, it was produced at the Jesuit college of St. Omers in 1651. NOTE 1 It belongs to a familiar category of Jesuit drama designed to honor and even glamorize martyrdom, often in such a way that the theme of the conflict of Church and state is touched upon. This play dramatizes the martyrdom of Saints John and Paul by order of the emperor Julian the Apostate, which traditionally occurred in 362. Although a marginal note at the end of its Argument indicates that its source was the account given in the fourth volume of Cardinal Caesare Baronio’s Annales Ecclesiastici a Christo Nato ad Annum 1198 (a work published in installments between 1588 and 1607), the story is preserved, with considerable variations of detail, in many accounts, NOTE 2 of which the most important is the entry in the Acta Sanctorum for June 26 (vol. 123, cols. 0292C - 0293C Migne).
spacer2. Unlike the only other dramatization of these brothers’ martyrdom of which I am aware, Hroswitha’s Gallicanus, this play does not allude to their previous service to the daughter of the emperor Constantine, nor their instrumentality in the conversion of Constantine’s general Gallicanus. All that we are explicitly told about them is that they are wealthy, although the play appears to presume that they are of old patrician stock (cf. especially sanguis Quirini nobilis at 186). NOTE 3 The plot deals exclusively with the brothers’ actual martyrdom and its sequel: after he personally executes them, Julian’s officer Terentianus is confronted by the sudden madness of his son Cethegus, and when the boy is cured by the intervention of the Christian priest Hiero, both father and son become enthusiastic Christian converts. A number of details are invented for the purpose of this play. The brothers are represented as twins: the play’s frequent comparison of John and Paul to Castor and Pollux, and also the comparison of them to Romulus and Remus at 156ff., leave no doubt that the Argument’s description of them as gemini is to be understood literally. Hiero is an invented character, and his use of an amulet containing the brothers’ ashes to heal Cethegus, thereby providing an illustration of the virtues of saints’ reliquaries, is not a feature of the traditional account. Cethegus’ friend, the Christian Narcissus, is another invented character, as is the minor part of Melander. Libanius and Maximus were historical figures, although the real Maximus was not a mage, but rather a Neoplatonic philosopher under whom Julian had studied before his accession, who was instrumental in converting him from Christianity to paganism.
spacer3. The most striking feature of the manuscript is that one or more names are written at the end of each scene, as follows:

Prologue: P. Cuff(aud)
Scene i: Charles Parker
Scene ii: Thomas Harvey
Scene iii: George And(erton)
Scene iv: Nicholas Temper[...]
Scene v: Thomas Erington (i. e., Harrington?)
Scene vi: Francis Gage
Scene vii: Charles Parker
Scene viii: Parker, Harvey, Gage, Anderton
Scene ix: P. Cuff(aud)
Final scene: P. Cuffaud

It is difficult to imagine what else these names might signify than that these individuals are the authors of the individual scenes. At first this interpretation would seem to be in contradiction to the requirement of the St. Omers Constitutiones (§ A.3) that plays produced in the college be written by the Professor of Humanities: Professor Humanitatis (etsi Ratio Studiorum nihil praescribat) praeter comoediam vel tragoediam sub finem studiorum ad praemiorum distributionem, habeat etiam in aula mense februario declamatoriam actionem, ad quam invitari poterunt externi). NOTE 4
spacer4. This rule was normally understood to require this, and so it is probably safe to assume that most St. Omers plays were composed by incumbents of this position (including the well known Jesuit playwright Joseph Simons). But this is not precisely what the rule specifies: it assigns to that Professor the responsibility for play-production, but leaves open the possibility that the plays in question could be written by someone else. It may therefore be suggested that the current incumbent of this position, Edward Cuffaud or Cufford (he is attested by various manuscripts of the period, such as Rawlinson poet. 215) hit upon the idea of assigning the writing of individual scenes to his students, no doubt the most advanced and talented, as a teaching device, himself supplying three scenes, coordinating and correcting their work and providing some kind of stylistic unity for the whole. It may further be conjectured that another St. Omers play, Gemitus Columbae sive Theophili Lachrymae (Stonyhurst College Library ms. A.VII.50 (2), pp. 69 - 87), which likewise contains names at the end of each scene, was written about the same time, during the tenure in office of the same Professor (in this case, too, Cuffaud was the author of the play’s first scene). The likelihood of this surmise is increased by the fact that one of the Felix Concordia names, that of P. Cuffaud, also stands at the end of Act I, Scene i, of Gemitus Columbae.
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5. The interpretation of the manuscript’s inclusion of names proposed here is admittedly conjectural. I have no idea what rosters of St. Omers students’ names are preserved, or whether, on the basis of extant records, it might be possible to compile a list of seventeenth-century occupants of the Chair of Humanities. If this information could be discovered and published, it would not only serve to verify the above interpretation: it would also allow us to identify the authors of a number of plays of known date which are now anonymous. And once this was done, it might also be possible to use stylometric analysis to identify further plays written by the same individuals and to establish at least their approximate dates. But this line of research remains for the future.
spacer6. I would like to thank Dr. Martin Wiggins of The Shakespeare Institute for drawing Felix Concordia to my attention, and for supplying me with a photograph of the manuscript.

 

Notes

spacerNOTE 1 Its existence has been noted by Alfred Harbage, “A Census of Anglo-Latin Plays,” P. M. L. A. 53 (1938) 628. Albert Harbage, Silvia S. Wagonheim, and Samuel Schoenbaum, Annals of English Drama 975 - 1700 (London, 1989) 208, and William McCabe S. J., An Introduction to the English Jesuit Theatre (St. Louis, 1983) 93 (who cites the evidence for dating).

spacerNOTE 2 These are itemized by Baronio himself in his 1586 Martyrologium Romanum for June 26 (p. 284).

spacerNOTE 3 A fair amount of the tradition about Sts. John and Paul is usually written off as mythological moonshine, but there does appear to be a kernel of historical truth to the story. In the fourth century the senator Byzantius and his son St. Pammachius transformed their house on the Caelian Hill into a Christian basilica, the so-called titulus Pammachii, and somehow remains of the two brothers came to be entombed under this basilica. See further Padre Germano di Stanislao, “The House of the Martyrs John and Paul Recently Discovered on the Coelian Hill at Rome,” American Journal of Archaeology 6 (1890) 261 - 85.

spacerNOTE 4 Quoted by McCabe, p. 104 (the Ratio Studiorum was a 1599 document governing Jesuit education).