1. Gager’s name is destined forever to be linked with that of Dr. John Rainolds, and no account of his literary activities would be complete without any consideration of their controversy about the propriety of academic dramatic performances, which engendered a barrage of pamphleteering that lasted for over a decade, and came to involve the Queen herself. Rainolds, a learned divine and Fellow of Queen’s College, NOTE 1, had been invited by Dr. Thomas Thornton, a Christ Church Canon, to attend the Christ Church Shrovetide dramatic productions of 1592 (February 6 - 8). At first he refused verbally, but, pressed by Thornton, he replied with a letter written on February 6 (quoted in full by Tucker Brooke, “Life and Times” 420 - 22). This letter contained a fierce blast against the sinfulness, immorality, and general impropriety of stage performances. His objections have been summarized by J. W. Binns: NOTE 2
(i) That it is wrong for men to dress in women’s clothes, NOTE 3 (ii.) that plays are a waste of time and money, (iii) that plays are a bad moral influence, (iv.) that actors were considered infamous even by the Romans, (v) that it is a profanation of the Sabbath to act plays on Sunday.
2. Tacked on the end of Gager’s additional scenes for a performance of Seneca’s Hippolytus is a pair of extra Epilogues. In the first of these, the captious critic Momus enters and decries the three Shrovetide productions. Then he is refuted by a Responsive Epilogue. Many, although scarcely all, of the carping sentiments put in Momus’ mouth look like a parody of Rainolds’ position, or at least so Rainolds thought. Gager denied that he had been shown the letter to Thornton, or that he had read the preface to Rainolds’ Sex Theses de Sacra Scriptura et Ecclesia (1580) in which the learned divine had already expressed his opposition to academic drama. Unsatisfied by Gager’s protestations that Momus was not intended as an ad hominem attack, Rainolds persisted in taking it as such, and was deeply offended. In both his letters to Gager, he constantly harps on this issue, although he fires his best shot on the first page of his first letter, writing, “If our reasons be naught, discover their naughtiness. If good, why does you Mome us?” Gager attempted to mollify him by sending him a letter, now lost, in which he solemnly averred that he had not meant Momus as a parody of Rainolds or any other specific individual. NOTE 4 This letter was accompanied by a copy of the newly-printed Ulysses Redux. NOTE 5
3. Rainolds was unappeased. He wrote back to Gager on July 10, and Gager responded in detail in a letter dated July 31, which constituted “a substantial treatise of defense of academic drama and academic performance (so Boas p. 234)” NOTE 6 His response elicited yet another letter from Rainolds (May 30, 1593), subsequently printed, NOTE 7 restating his case at greater length. Gager declined to continue the debate, and the cudgels were taken up on his behalf by his friend Alberico Gentili, the Regius Professor of Civil Law. NOTE 8 He wrote Rainolds a letter defending Gager and the legitimacy of academic dramatics on July 1, 1593, about the same time that he printed his views in the course of a commentary on a portion of the Justinian Code, NOTE 9 which elicited a response on July 10. Gentili replied in turn with an undated letter, and received a long pamphlet-like letter from Rainolds written on August 5. There is no need to chronicle the remainder of their debate.
4. Thus far the matter had remained more or less an internal Oxonian matter, but Rainolds gave it an entirely new dimension by going public. In 1599 he published his letters of July 10, 1592 and May 30, 1593, to Gager, as well as both sides of the correspondance with Gentili described above, in a volume entitled Th’ Overthrow of Stage-Plays, printed at Middelburg, Holland in 1599 (perhaps printed overseas so as not to offend the Queen yet further). Conspicuously absent from this volume is Gager’s letter of July 31, 1592, evidently unpublished in his lifetime (but see below), although one may say in Rainolds’ defence that in his second and much longer letter to Gager he quotes Gager’s words so liberally in order to provide a point-by-point refutation that he may have thought that reproducing them in full would be superfluous. Gentili issued a defense of dramatics in the course of his de Professoribus et Medicis (1593), and subsequently published a tract de Actoribus et Spectatoribus Fabularum non Notandis Disputatio (printed at Hanau in 1599, perhaps Gentili likewise wanted to avoid the royal notice), seemingly a response to Th’ Overthrow, and there the matter more or less ended, although echoes of the controversy lingered on, not only in the dedicatory epistle of Matthew Gwinne’s 1603 tragedy Nero, but also Thomas Heywood’s 1612 An Apology for Actors, and even Robert Ward’s 1623 Cambridge comedy Fucus sive Histriomastix, as described in the Introduction to that play.
5. At the height of the controversy, Elizabeth made her visit to Oxford in September 1592. She appears to have been drawn into it and to have rebuked Rainolds in person. According to the annals of the seventeenth century antiquarian Anthony à Wood, she “schooled Dr. John Rainolds for his obstinate preciseness, willing him to follow her laws, and not run before them.” Here is a summary of her concluding remarks in a farewell speech to the University given on September 28: NOTE 10
Si enim corporum vestorum semper curam suscepi, deseramne animarum? Vetet Deus! Animarum ego curam negligam, pro quantum neglectu anima mea iudicabitur? Longe absit! Moneo ergo, ut non praeeatis leges; sequamini, ne disputetis, non meliora possint praescribi; sed observetis, quae lex divina iubet, et nostra cogit. Deinde memineris, ut unusquisque in gradu suo superiori obediat; non praescribendo quae esse deberent, sed sequendo quod praescriptum est; hoc cogitantes, quod si superiores agere caeperint quae non decet, alium superiorem habebunt a quo regantur, qui illos punire et debeat et velit. Postremo, sitis unanimes; cum intellegatis unita robustiora, separata infirmiora, et cito in ruinam casura.
[“If I have always undertaken to care for your bodies, ought I to neglect your souls? God forbid! Should I neglect your souls, how should my own be judged for the omission? Perish the thought! Wherefore I admonish you not to run before the laws. Follow them. Do not debate whether better ones might be written, but rather observe those things prescribed by Divine Law, and enjoined by my own. And next, be mindful that each man be obedient to his superior, not prescribing things which he imagines ought to be, but following that which is ordained, bearing this in mind, that if your superiors should begin to do that which is unfit, they themselves have a superior over them by whom they are ruled, who should both be obliged and willing to punish them. And finally, be you of one mind, since you must understand that this University will be the stronger in unity, but the weaker in division, and thus more prone to ruination.”]
6. We know that Rainolds delivered a lecture in Divinity before the Queen, NOTE 11 and Brooke (“Life and Times” 425) speculated that he had yielded to the temptation to preach a sermon about the immorality of the stage. Possibly he had been especially provoked into this response by the fact that one of the plays enacted before the Queen was Rivales, the Gager play by which he professed himself to be most scandalized. It looks as if he had been shrewdly maneuvered into this position, and that the desired result was thus obtained. The pro-theater party had succeeded in preserving the legitimacy and honor of academic dramatics. To be sure, this situation is based on nothing securer than Wood’s implied testimony that the Queen had been understood to aim her remarks at Rainolds. But though she did not mention him by name, and ingenious historians might devise other interpretations, her admonitions do seem to fit the facts of the case. Her injunction quod si superiores agere caeperint quae non decet, alium superiorem habebunt, a quo regantur, qui illos punire et debeat et velint reads like an admonition not to question the authority of Chancellor Buckhurst in the matter of dramatics, and her concluding admonition favoring unity would seem to be an attempt to put an end to what was evidently the single most divisive issue of the moment. If Elizabeth did take Gager’s side in this quarrel, this would only fit in with a general tendency of the government and its supporters to defend theater and the arts against Puritan attack. NOTE 12 For, as Russell Fraser put it:
…the support of the Crown for idle poetry [did] not depend on approbation of the thing itself. Art, like government and war and the sporting life and the priestly function, is by convention an aristocratic activity. It is the prerogative of a leisure class. To attack it is to menace the pretensions of that class. In covert ways, it is to menace the Crown itself.
It was naive of Rainolds not to anticipate that the Queen would regard his attack on the theater as an attack against herself.
7. The seventeenth century antiquarian Anthony à Wood (A. O. II.89) wrote of Gager’s part in this controversy:
[Gager] said more for the defense of plays than can be well said again by any man that should succeed or come after him. The cause for the defense of plays was very wittily and scholar-like maintained between the said two doctors for some time, but upon the rejoynder of Rainolds, Gager did let go his hold, and in a Christian modesty and humility yielded to the truth, and quite altered his judgment.
This is probably not quite right. More accurately, Gager was functioning as spokesman for a faction within the University that likewise supported dramatics. After all, he had recently received his D. C. L. and was soon to go down from Oxford, and so could afford to make important enemies.
8. The question remains, to what extent did Gager devise his Momus as a personal attack on Rainolds? There are four reasons, I think, for thinking he did not. In the first place, this speaker’s attack contains an admixture of elements that are scarcely appropriate for an academic Puritan. When he criticizes Ulysses Redux’ tragicomic nature, he adopts the attitude of a fastidious critic nutured on Horace, of the sort to whom Gager addressed the essay ad Criticum that prefaces that play. And then, at the end, he takes on the tones of a testy Christ Church student annoyed by the disruption of collegiate routine created by the performance, and ends with the exclamation that, if he must be bothered by dramatics, he might as well go to a professional theater, where he’ll see a better show. The joke in these lines is of course that a Puritan would scarcely be found patronizing the public theater. Second, the vivid description of Momus’ grotesque appearance provided by Gager does not appear to resemble Rainolds (his most salient physical characteristic seems to have been that he was very short, if not an actual dwarf), NOTE 13 but it bears a striking similarity to that of the captious Zoilus-like critic who appears to Gager in a vision in poem LXXIX complaining about a work by his friend George Peele. Third, there is the question of the resemblance of the Puritannical elements in Momus’ critique to a section in the 1588 commentary on Aristotle’s Politics, Sphaera Civitatis by Gager’s friend John Case (V.viii.12). Case had a standard working method of appending to his analysis of each chapter in Aristotle one or more Objections or Oppositions, each countered by matching Responses. The objections to drama raised in this passage are much the same as the talking-points of Momus, and the rebuttals of the Epilogus Responsivus equally resemble Case’s Responses. At least as far as the argumentative contents of these two Epilogues go, it seems not unreasonable to say that Gager was simply dramatizing ideas already set forth by Case. The fourth and final reason is simply Gager’s testimony at the end of the second paragraph of the letter that he could produce a witness to attest that he had written Momus a month before its performance, so that it was in no way inspired by Rainold’s recent letter to Thornton.
9. Gager belonged a circle of intellectual Oxford literati who were outspokenly royalist and High Church Anglican, and so were very ready to defend the arts. A couple of other members of this circle had already published works defending music against similar Protestant attack: Matthew Gwinne’s 1582 In Laudem Musices Oratio and John Case’s 1588 Apologia Musices tam Vocalis quam Instrumentalis et Mixtae (in the Introduction to my edition I argue that Case also wrote the anonymous 1586 The Praise of Musicke). Case had likewise defended drama in the course of Sphaera Civitatis (the question of whether he was concerned with arguments made specifically by Rainolds, or advanced by Puritans more generally, seems impossible to settle). It therefore looks as if what Gager writes here should be read within the context of a long-running dispute within the academic community. This is especially so because the propriety of drama was repeatedly made the subject of academic quaestiones. Utrum ludi scenici in bene instituta civitate probandi sint? was the subject of a 1584 Vesperies M. A. disputation (Clark, Register II.i.170), and An histriones sunt infames? the one for a 1593 D. C. L. disputation (Elliott et al., REED Oxford II.598), and Rainolds seems to have engaged in some previous public dispute with Gentili on the subject. NOTE 14 All in all it would seem that the Gager-Rainolds controversy needs to be seen as one element in a larger ongoing debate. NOTE 15
11. The Rainolds controversy probably serves to explain the purpose of the 1592 Shrovetide festival, and also of the printing of Gager’s plays. For, as Tucker Brooke (“Life and Times” 422) appreciated, there is something fishy about the whole controversy:
I assume that Gager was called upon to return to dramatic composition by the state of Oxford opinon on the theater, for it is hard to believe that this expensive and unusual festival at Christ Church at Shrovetide, 1592, was purely spontaneous; and yet it was not occasioned, like those of 1566 or 1583, or the later one in this same year, by the presence of any eminent visitor or other external cause …It looks as if the authorities of Christ Church went to the expense of a three-day dramatic festival at Shrovetide, 1592, in the spirit in which the four Inns of Court commissioned Shirley’s Masque of Peace forty-two years later — as an open challenge to their adversaries and critics. Extant letters show that they took special pains to solicit Dr. Rainolds’ presence…the Oxford University Press published Ulysses Redux with extraordinary speed…The purpose of printing was evidently more controversial than literary.
The pro-drama party had no idea that the Queen was going to visit Oxford in September. This was a hastily-arranged excursion designed to get her away from the plague currently raging in London. NOTE 16 More realistically, they may have entertained some hope that, given suitable provocation, Rainolds, the most outspoken opponent of drama, would comport himself in such a way as to discredit his cause. Given his somewhat bull-headed and undiplomatic modus operandi, very evident in his final letter to Gager and some of his letters to Gentili, such a reaction could safely be anticipated, NOTE 17 and when Thornton tried to lure him to the performances, he doubtless knew his man. It seems likely that the plan was to create a situation in which Convocation would be compelled to go on record in favor of plays, or even one in which Chancellor Buckhurst would intervene on behalf of dramatics. Indeed, when, in the course of his dedicatory epistle to Lord Buckhurst, Gager thanks him for making the production possible, probably by supplying funds (cf. ad scenicum nobis apparatum comparandum), this looks like a broad hint that Buckhurst was party to the plan from the outset. NOTE 18
12. Brooke suggested that the printing of Ulysses Redux was done in connection with the Rainolds dispute. NOTE 19 The volume looks well suited for the job. The first thing to greet the reader’s eye is the University seal, displayed in a flamboyant woodcut occupying most of the title page (the similar seal of the Meleager title page is modest by comparison). One dedicatory epistle serves to remind the reader that Buckhurst had written a play himself, and it is scarcely irrelevant to the Rainolds controversy that Gager calls a playwright’s activity a res tam honorata that needs no defense. The alternative dedication invokes the talismatic prestige of the Sidney name. Then come an impressive number of testimonial epigrams endorsing the play. Leading the parade was none other than the Regius Professor of Divinity, who was also Master of a College an a man of notorious learning and piety (Rainolds must have found this touch especially galling). Next comes a very distinguished jurist and another Regius Professor (Gentili), and a Christ Church Canon who had served as University Proctor (Richard Eedes). And so this volume bears an aggressive aura of offcialdom. The whole production seems calculated to underscore a point made in the Responsive Epilogue, (592), and hammered home in the subsequent letter to Rainolds, that academic drama had the support of University opinion. Boas (p. 198 n. 1) suggested that the Meleager volume was also issued in connection with the dispute. It must be remembered that, although this edition bears the date 1592 on its title page, it was in fact issued in 1593 New Style, subsequent to the publication of Ulysses Redux, and so the playwright may have decided to print Meleager as a pretext for placing Momus and the Epilogus Responsivus on the public record in connection with the escalating dispute. To a lesser degree than its predecessor, this volume also bears a flavor of officialdom. While it contains less testimonial material than its predecessor, it does contain epigrams of endorsement by Alberico Gentili and John Case.
13. If this indeed was the strategy of the pro-drama party, it worked out better than anticipated. Those privy to the plan must have been hugely delighted that Rainolds chose to take Momus as a personal attack, even if Gager had not conceived it as such, which only added to the fury (and lack of diplomacy) of his reaction, paving the way for the royal rebuke he was given.
14. We may now consider what Gager wrote. The arguments on both sides in their dispute are chiefly couched in narrow theological and legalistic terms. Although Gager’s response is humane, tempoerate, and dignified, and is also a fine specimen of muscular Elizabethan prose, a modern reader might be inclined to regret that he missed the opportunity for raising the level of the dispute to a more philosophical level, thus producing a significant document of Renaissance literary criticism. This also has the effect of placing him at a distinct strategic disadvantage, by failing to take the high ground and becoming enmeshed in the interpretation of Roman and Hebrew law, he left the argument on a level where it was all too easy for the learned Rainolds to hold his own. NOTE 20 The closest Gager comes to a more elevated defense is in the following passage:
Neyther doe I see what evill affections could be stirred up by owre playes, but rather good, for in Vlysse Reduce, whoe did not love the fidelyte of Eumaeus and Philoetius towardes their Master; and hate the contrary in Melanthius? Whoe was not moved to compassion to see Vlysses a great Lorde dryvne so hardly as that he was fayne too be a begger in his owne house? Whoe did not wisshe hym well, and all ill to the wooers, and thinke them wortheley slayne, for their bluddye purpose agaynst Telemachus and other dissolute behaviour, not so muche expressed on the Stage as imagined to be done within? Whoe did not admyre the constancye of Penelope, and disprayse the lytenes, and bad nature in Melantho, and thinke her justly hanged for it? Whoe did not prayse the patience, wisdome, and secrecye of Vlysses and Telemachus his sonne? Lastly whoe was not glad to see Vlysses restored to his wife and his goods, and his mortall enemyes overthrowne and punished? …as in other Tragedyes, whoe dothe not hate the furye of Medea, the revenge of Atreus, the treason of Clytemnestra and Aegisthus, and the cruelty of Nero? Contraryewise, whoe doth not pittye the rage and the death of Hercules, the calamytie of Hecuba and her children, the infortunate valure of Oedipus, the murder of Agamemnon, the bannishment of Octavia, and such like? And yet no man is to be reproched for eyther affection.
Boas (p. 237) added:
In similar vein [Gager] contends that spectators at the performance of Rivales would be deterred from drunkness ‘by seeinge the deformytye of drunken actions represented,’ while his additions to the Hippolytus would serve as incitements to purity of life. This is exactly the line of argument taken up by Sidney in an important section of his Apologie for Poetrie, and it is based upon the fallacious theory that Drama and other forms of imaginative art are to be gauged…by the quantum of moral teaching that they directly convey.
The principal passage Boas had in mind is Apologie III.14f. Fueillerat, in which Sidney argues that the stage alows the representation of various moral conditions:
Let us but heare old Anchises, speaking in the middest of Troies flames, or see Ulisses in the fulnesse of all Calipsoes delights, bewaile his absence from barraine and beggerly Ithaca. Anger, the Stoikes said, was a short madnesse: let but Sophocles bring you Ajax on a stage, killing and whipping sheepe and oxen, thinking them the Army of Greekes, with their Cheiftaines Agamemnon and Menelaus: and tell me if you have not a more familiar insight into Anger then finding in the schoolmen his Genus and Difference. See whether wisdom and temperance in Ulisses and Diomedes, valure in Achilles, friendship in Nisus and Eurialas, even to an ignorant man carry not an apparent shining; and contrarily, the remorse of conscience in Oedipus; the soone reprenting pride in Agamemnon; the selfe devouring crueltie in his father Atreus; the violence of ambition in the two Theban brothers; the sower sweetnesse of revenge in Medea; and to fall lower, the Terentian Ganatho, and our Chawcers Pander so exprest, that we now use their names to signifie their Trades. And finally, all vertues, vices, and passions, so in their owne naturall states, laide to the view, that we seeme not to heare of them, but clearly to see through them.
Sidney’s Apologie had not yet been printed (it would not be until 1595), but had been written much earlier — elsewhere I have shown that it is echoed in Thomas Watson’s Latin translation of Sophocles’ Antigone, printed in 1581 NOTE 21 — and surely Gager had read it and repeated Sidney’s argument. Gager may or may not have been aware that Sidney’s argument was in fact a summary of a detailed discusssion of what is beginning to be called “exemplary drama” written by the German theologian Martin Bucer after coming to England and being installed as Regius Professor of Divinity at Cambridge. There, late in the reign of Edward VI he wrote a lengthy work entitled De Regno Christi (which was not printed until 1557), setting forth a blueprint for the ideal Christian society over which he hoped Edward would preside. Chapter II.154 of that work expresses the hope that within such a society all theatrical activity would consist of the presentation of positive and negative examples to be imitated and avoided, for the moral instruction of audiences. It seems likely that Sidney would have read Bucer’s discussion and that his originality consisted in expanding the idea of “exemplary” literature to poetry more generally (or at least to epic and other forms of narrative poetry). Consciously or otherwise, by limiting the discussion to drama, Gager was returning the idea to its original form.
15. Someone who was obviously not familiar with Bucer’s work was Thomas Heywood, who in the introduction “To my good Friends and Fellowes, the Citty-Actors” prefacing his 1612 An Apologie for Actors, NOTE 22 wrote:
…instancing my selfe by famous Scalliger, learned Doctor Gager, Doctor Gentiles, and others, whose opinions and approued arguments on our part I haue in my briefe discourse altogether omitted, because I am loath to bee taxed in borrowing from others; and besides, their workes being extant to the world, offer themselues freely to euery mans perusall.
Heywood is otherwise citing published works: Julius Caesar Scaliger’s de Comicis Dimensionibus (Lyon, 1539), or more likely, as Binns thought to certain sections of his Poetices Libri Septem (Lyons, 1561), and Alberico Gentili’s De Actoribus et Spectatoribus Fabularum non Notandis Disputatio (Hanau, 1599). But to what published work or works by Gager is he referring? There seem to be four possibilities: i.) that he had in mind the Momus and the Epilogus Responsivus, which had appeared in print; ii.) that he meant to indicate Gager’s letter to Rainolds insofar as a reader could reconstruct it from Rainolds’ copious quotations and summaries in Th’ Overthrow; iii.) that (despite the fact that it is preserved in a single copy) Gager’s letter had sufficiently circulated in manuscript that Heywood was able to make this statement; iv.) that the letter had been printed, but that no copies survive.
16. It is probably impossible to come to a definitive selection among these possibilities, but certain things can be said. The second of them can probably be eliminated, since in his Apology Heywood displays no familiaity with Th’ Overthrow and does not respond to the types of legalistic or theological arguments that marked Rainold’s line of approach. Heywood may of course have read Momus and the Epilogus Responsivus, but it seems doubtful that these passages, taken by themselves, would earn Gager the epithet “learned,” while the letter obviously would. Furthermore, I am about to show that Heywood appropriates some of the letter’s arguments in his Apology. The possibility that the letter was printed in the 1590’s cannot be ruled out altogether. Some of Gager’s printed works are extremely rare, so that a house fire here or a leaky roof there would have obliterated any knowledge of their existence. And, if the letter had been printed, this would help explain why Rainolds did not include it in Th’ Overthrow although (being an intellectually honest scholar) he did provide texts of unpublished letters by his other antagonist, Gentili. But this is purely speculative, and we must remember that Anthony à Wood (A. O. II.88) expressed doubt that it had been printed, although he did not completely deny thie possibility. The idea of the letter circulating widely in manuscript is easy enough to accept, for, although it pretends to be an attempt to soothe Rainolds after the Momus incident, it very much wears the aspect of an open letter or pamphlet. And one suspects that it was awareness that Gager’s letter was gaining wide currency, in print or in manuscript, that impelled Rainolds to break into print with Th’ Overthrow in 1599.
16. The possible idea that Heywood was only familiar with Momus and the Epilogus Responsivus falls afoul of the fact that, despite his initial disclaimer, he indeed does echo Gager’s letter in his Apologie. Gager had written:
We contrarywise [produce plays] to recreate owre selves, owre House, and the better part of the Universitye, with some learned Poême or other, to practyse owre owne style eyther in prose or verse; to be well acquaynted with Seneca or Plautus; honestly to embowlden owre yuth; to trye their voyces, and confirme their memoryes; to frame their speech; to conform them to convenient action; to trye what mettell is in everye one, and of what disposition they are of; whereby never any one amongst vs, that I know, was made the worse, many have byn much the better.
These words bear a striking resemblance to a frequently-quoted passage from the Apology (sig. C. 3v):
In the time of my residence in Cambridge, I haue seene Tragedyes, Comedyes, Historyes, Pastorals and Shewes, publickly acted, in which the Graduates of good place and reputation haue bene specially parted: this is held necessary for the emboldening of their Iunior schollers, to arme them with audacity against they come to bee imployed in any publicke exercise, as in the reading of the Dialectike, Rhetoricke, Ethicke, Mathematick, the Physicke, or Metaphysicke Lectures. It teacheth audacity to the bashfull Grammarian, beeing newly admitted into the priuate Colledge, and after matriculated and entered as a member of the Vniuersity, and makes him a bold Sophister.
12. Furthermore, in a passage too long for quotation here (sigs. F 3v - G 2r), Heywood takes just the same argumentative tack that Gager had adopted in the passage quoted earlier in this Introduction, that drama is morally improving because of the positive and negative examples its characters exhibit for the spectator’s instruction. The parallel is all the more convincing because Heywood shows no signs of familiarity with Sidney’s Apologie: had he known this work, it is hard to imagine that he would not have wrapped himself in the mantle of such a prestigious authority. A sample comparison serves to illustrate the point. Gager defends Rivales in the following words:
In Riuales, what Cato might not be delyted to see the fonde behaviour of cuntrye wooinge, expressed by cyvill men, or the vanytye of a bragginge soldier? By the spectacle of the drunken mariners, if there were any drunkard there, why might he not the rather detest drunkennes, by seeing the deformytye of drunken actions represented?
This may be set beside a similar statement by Heywood (sigs. F 3v - 4r):
And what is then the subiect of this harmelesse mirth [of comedy}? Either in the shape of a Clowne, to shew others their slouenly and vhhansome behauiour, that they may reforme that simplicity in themselues, which others make their sport, lest they happen to become the like subiect of generall scorne to an auditory, else it intreates of loue, deriding foolish inamorates, who spend their ages, their spirits, nay themselues, in the seruile and ridiculous imployments of their Mistresses.
It would be difficult not to conclude that Heywood had read Gager’s letter to Rainolds and learned from it. Thus Gager’s central arguments passed into the national dialogue on the subject.
13. Gager’s letter is uniquely preserved by the Corpus Christi College ms. 332 (our E), pp. 11 - 40, (previously owned by University College, and so is identified in the earlier secondary literature as University College ms. J 18), which contains other documents pertinent to the ongoing three-cornered dispute between Rainolds, Gager, and Gentili (a photograph of one page of the letter is reproduced by Boas as his Figure 3, opposite p. 234). It is a copy ms., and its appoximate date is indicated by the fact that it contains as its first two items Rainolds’ last will and testament of April 1, 1606, and a posthumous inventory of his books, apparel, and other possessions, taken on June 22, 1607. The text of the letter has previously been printed by Karl Young, “William Gager’s Defense of the Academic Stage,” Transactions of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts, and Letters 18:2 (19165) 593 - 638.