1. Many of the students of the English College in Rome who had previous experience in English schools and universities must have brought with them familiarity with contemporary academic drama in England, which is why, in many ways, the plays written and produced at the English College resemble their English counterparts. Nevertheless, in some respects English College performance practices were not the same. One difference was the absence of female characters, who, as I have briefly discussed elsewhere, were forbidden by Jesuit regulations. Another, which had no counterpart in English university drama, was the performance of farcical entr’actes (collectively called an intermedium) between the acts of a serious play. In some dramatic traditions farcical afterpieces were performed after tragedies (Greek satyr play, for example, the contemporary Elizabethan jig which made Richard Tarleton so famous, and the kyogen that followed Japanese Noh plays), NOTE 1 and it is easy and obvious to suggest that the purpose of such afterpieces was to provide the audience with comic relief after the stresses of more serious dramatic experience. The artistic contribution psychological benefits purveyed by entr’actes or interludes are harder to understand, and it is difficult to grasp how they could have been performed without irreparably undermining the tragic effect of the serious work on the same playbill.
2. Be this as it may, students of theater history will doubtless find it interesting to be able to read an original tragedy - entr’acte pairing. The present anonymous intermedium, entitled Minutum after the first character to appear in it, is preserved in English College Archives MS Lib. 321, fols. 102r - 121r. On the basis of a note written on the verso of fol. 2 of the same manuscript, which receives support from internal textual evidence, NOTE 2 we know that it was produced together with the anonymous tragedy Thomas Cantauriensis in 1613, performed in such a way that its four acts were performed after the first four acts of the tragedy. Minutum is admittedly very slight fare with a thin plot, largely concerned with verbal and physical clowning, with plenty of scurrying and hitting. This was no doubt a matter of calculation, so as not to detract excessively from the central interest of the companion tragedy.
3. It is probably for the same reason that the author conspicuously fails to explore the comic possibilities of his calendar farce more deeply. In the case of some afterpiece forms there is a visible tendency to create some kind of linkage, narrative or at least thematic, between afterpieces and the serious works they follow. In the case of Minutum the only such linkage is a short passage at the end (995ff.) in which December is rebuked because the martyrdom of Thomas à Becket occurred during his month. The author could have done a good deal more by way of linkage, had he wanted. There exists another English Jesuit play about Becket, Brevis Dialogismus, produced at the Jesuit seminary at St. Omer in 1599, NOTE 3 which is about about the observation of St Thomas’s day rather than about Becket himself. But the play’s subtext seems to be the difference between the continental Catholic (Gregorian) calendar and the Protestant English (Julian) one: England is not only failing to celebrate St Thomas’s day because it is Protestant, it is also literally not the same day. In Act I of Minutum, plenty of comic capital is made on the introduction of the new Gregorian calendar (March is furious because he has been displaced as the first month of the year), but this does not involve any kind of contrast between the Continent and England or Catholicism and Protestantism. Since a major theme of Thomas Cantuariensis is that, in opposing Becket, Henry II creates a situation that distinctly foreshadows the contemporary struggle between Rome-based religion and rebellious English governmental authority, a linkage of such calendar considerations to the conflict between Catholicism and Protestantism could have done much on a thematic level to tie Minutum more tightly to Thomas Cantuariensis. But, as I say, the author resolutely avoided any such anti-Protestant humor.
4. The text of Minutum is written in the same hand as that of Thomas Cantauriensis, preserved by fols. 61r - 101v of the same ms. There are a sufficient number of copying mistakes in the text of Thomas Cantuariensis that is clearly a copy manuscript. But the text of Minutum, is nearly devoid of copying mistakes (save for a very few slips of the pen and self-corrections made by erasure at the time of its original writing). This is what one would expect to find in an author’s holograph. The likely conclusion, therefore, is that the author of Minutum has made fair copies both of his own work and of the tragedy it was written to accompany (there is no cogent reason for thinking these plays to be the work of a single individual).
5. Archival evidence attests that Thomas Cantuarensis indeed was given a revival performance in 1617. Act II of Minutum ends with the song (both words and music) Iam lenis spirat aura (527ff.), and in the margin of the page containing that song (fol. 111v) are the words, without accompanying music, of a completely different song meant to be sung by a chorus of satyrs, Silete, adeste sylvani caprigeni. The most plausible explanation for the existence of this variant song would appear to be that Minutum was performed with Thomas Cantuariensis in both 1613 and 1617.
7. Again, I must thank Dr. Martin Wiggins of the Shakespeare Institute for supplying me with a photographic copy of the manuscript. In this copy, many of the stage directions, written in a very small hand, are partially or wholly illegible. Dr. Wiggins has also made a number of valuable suggestions for the improvement of this edition.
8. The reader’s attention is further directed to an Appendix to Thomas Morus in which is provided a more comprehensive overview of the contents of Ms. 321.
NOTE 1 For the satyr play cf. D. F. Sutton, The Greek Satyr Play (Meisenheim am Glan, 1980). For the jig cf. Charles Read Baskervill, The Elizabethan Jig and Related Song Drama (Chicago, 1929). For the kyogen cf. (e. g.) Shiho Sakanishi, Kyôgen; comic interludes of Japan (Boston, 1938), D. F. Sutton, “Euripides’ Cyclops and the Kyogen Esashi Juo,” Quaderni Urbinati di Cultura Classica n. s. 3 (1979), 53 - 64, and James R. Brandon, Nō and Kyōgen in the Contemporary World (Honolulu, 19097)
NOTE 2 For the year, cf. 862f. For the month cf. 823f.