INTRODUCTION

1. The Jesuit tragedy Thomas Morus is preserved by English College (Rome) Archives MS. Lib. 321, fols. 2r - 38r. NOTE 1 Like its companion-piece, the tragedy Thomas Cantuariensis produced in the following, year, it may be a “martyr play” written simultaneously to honor the memory of a celebrated English Catholic martyr, to encourage those members of the College destined to return covertly to England and therefore confronted with the prospect of possible martyrdom themselves, and to present the Catholic case in the ongoing struggle between the supremacy of Roman religion and the opposing claims of the English central government. The suggestion has also been made that the writing of this play may related to the fact that More’s grandson had been a student at the English college from 1601 to 1610. NOTE 2 The play is a very effective one, although it suffers from at least one weakness: in reading it one sometimes has a very tenuous sense of time and place. Regarding time, this is no doubt a calculated decision by the author, because the events he dramatizes actually spanned the better part of two years, and by keeping his silence about this fact he manages to convey a sense of dramatic compression and unity without doing actual violence to historical truth. Regarding space, I suspect the proper answer is that the English College refectory, where these plays were presumably acted, was too small, and possibly the College finances too limited, to facilitate the use of the “houses” employed in English university drama. Playwrights, therefore, tended not to pay careful attention to the question of the location of their scenes because they were not under a similar obligation to indentify structures visible to their audience (in some English College Latin plays one finds casual references to intus, “inside, offstage” without any further information provided).
2. A photographic copy has been furnished me by the kindness of Dr. Martin Wiggins of the Shakespeare institute. The manuscript dates the play to 1612, which may be an oversimplification since a concluding colophon, Ter data semper placuit (“Thrice given, it always pleased”), indicates that it was performed repeatedly, and 1612 may have been the date of its premiere performances. NOTE 3 This item of intelligence is useful for understanding the manuscript, into which have been introduced a large number of corrections and alterations, all written in the same hand that wrote the original text. Many other passages have been marked for deletion. In listing variant readings, I have recorded these changes as best I could, but many additional ones are unreported because the original readings are so heavily crossed out that, at least on a photographic copy, they are illegible. For this same reaso,n the present edition perforce presents the play its final condition.
3. The differences between what was originally written and alterations subsequently introduced justify one speaking of an earlier and later version of the play. The most obvious interpretation is that we have a holograph manuscript in which the author himself sketched out his revised version, probably with an eye to a revival performance. But, even if we make due allowance for the possibility that in copying his own text an author’s pen may occasionally slip, the remarkable number of errors, and the nature of some of them, excludes this possibility: 96 causa for casta, 121 exigut for exigunt (by omission of a tittle), 121 edocta for edicta, 189 perhaps nonnullo for non nudo, 223 Anglae for Angliae, 303 Resistat for Resistit, 310 Navales for Navalis, 312 Tethis for Thetis, 322 pugnatur Deo for pugnatur diu, 365 (after alteration) immiti for immitis, 516 Regente for Rigente, 656 lacessit for lacessunt, 816 Quid for Quod, 822, illam for illum, 1021 debitae for debiti, 1273 Tu for Te, 1352 sepius for saepius, 1400 fideles for fidelis, 1410 principis for principi, 472 fidei for fides, 1559 propia for propria, 1766 Morti for Mortis, 1956 clemens for Clemens, 2006 aurifiace for auris iace, 2013 aliqua for aliquo, and 2020 regida for rigida. Further errors exist in the passages cut from the second version, as noted by [sic] in the variorum page. Then too, the lists of speakers at the beginning of scenes are occasionally inaccurate. The following characters are omitted: II.iii NORRICIUS (or earlier IOANNES MORUS), IV.iii PROCURATOR REGIUS, VI.iii, AUDLAEUS. Hence, evidently, we are dealing with a copy manuscript subsequently altered by a second party, whom I assume to be the principal copyist.
4. The manuscript is written in two hands: Acts I - IV, and all subsequent alterations, as well as all stage-directions, appear to be the responsibility of one copyist, and Act V by another (a more comprehensive discussion of MS. 321 is provided in an Appendix). It seems possible to discern two or even three distinct phases of alteration. The first consists of straightforward corrections of the original text: restoration of omitted words and so forth, which could have been introduced as soon as immediately after its original writing. By a distinctly different kind of alteration, words, lines, or passages are crossed out and substitutes written between the lines or in the margin. These almost always represent substantial improvements on the original text by the introduction of a better choice of words or a superior expression of the original thought (the sole exception is at 432f., where Non salus salvos potest / Reddere has been altered to Ipsa vix salvos salus / Reddere, which deprives the statement of a verb). The final kind of alteration is that many passages, large and small, are marked for deletion by marginal brackets. That is a distinctly different phase of alteration, that occurred later than the textual rewriting just described, is shown by the fact that some passages were first rewritten, then subsequently marked for deletion: these are passages after 1009, 1219, 1429, 1448, 1492, and the deleted but unreplaced speech at 1668ff. that I have retained in the text (in most of these passages the original readings are too heavily defaced to be legible). It was perhaps at this time that the reviser eliminated a scene-break when Cromwell and Norfolk enter after after (originally counted as I.vi). If the diagnosis that the manuscript shows three stages of revision is right, then it is obviously tempting to associate these with the three performances attested by the colophon: we have a superficially corrected)text of the first performance, a lightly rewritten text for the second, and a drastically revised redaction for the third. (Again, see the further discussion in the Appendix on Ms. 321).
5. On the showing of this manuscript, the revised and shortened text as preserved by our manuscript does not appear to be a finished product. At 1636ff. the passage in which the members of Henry’s Privy Council vote on More’s guilt is marked for deletion, but no substitute is provided, and this transaction is necessary to advance the plot. In the same way, the reviser eliminated More’s long speech at 1668ff., but provided no alternative. This is a speech, to be sure, which could usefully be shortened or revised (it is written in rather crabbed Latin and at some points it is less than fully clear what exactly More is talking about), but the presence of some speech here seems dramatically necessary, both because the Prosecutor’s following expostulation makes no sense in its absence, and because it is essential from a psychological point of view, since it is the one speech in the play that makes More’s motivation for opposing Henry’s marriage to Anne Boleyn clear. Either these passages were erroneously marked for deletion, or the copyist failed to include texts of the substitute passages in question. Another reason for thinking that the present revised text may not represent a quite finished product is that some of excisions leave some lines incomplete (1170, 1208, 1242). These are admittedly difficult to explain, but it it is worth pointing out that the 1612 English College tragedy Thomas Cantuariensis, which I am about to argue to be the work of the same playwright, contains similar lines. Most but not quite all of the incomplete lines of Thomas Morus result from cuts made in the text, and it looks as if the text of Thomas Cantuariensis has been subject to similar excisions (and at this point it is cogent to note that a revival performance Thomas Cantuariensis in 1617 is attested by archival evidence). Perhaps the reviser chose to let them stand, using the incomplete lines of the Aeneid as a precedent. Finally, it would seem that the copyist was aware that the reviser was at least toying with the idea of making further changes. A marginal note opposite 1913, Scaena 5a Henricus, Umbrae, Scaena 6a Henricus, Cromwellus, suggests he contemplated reworking Act V so as to introduce a new scene, featuring a ghost apparition, after 1912 (this is a bit puzzling, since this numeration seems to require breaking the preceding portion of V.iii into two scenes, and it is far from clear where such a break could fall).
6. The changes introduced in the redacted text have three results. First, the cumulative effect of the reviser’s many deletions is that the play’s length is significantly shortened, by approximately ten percent. The pruning of a good deal of excess rhetoric is welcome, although one prime candidate for cutting has only been slightly reduced in length. Surrey’s long description of a sea-fight (285ff.) may be a colorful and exciting set-piece calculated to appeal to the young men in the audience, and perhaps to capitalize on the popularity of a well-known ballad, but it is magnificently irrelevant to the action of the play, which would scarcely suffer by its elimination. At first sight, it may seem that marking so many passages for deletion was done in the interest of shortening the play’s overall length, but the marginal note against 1913 suggests a different possibility: one of the reviser’s motivations in revising the play may have been to shorten what he had already written, particularly in Act V, to accommodate an intended ghost scene without making the play unduly long. Maybe the idea was to balance the appearance of Cacodaemon in Act I with a similar otherworldly apparition in Act V.
7. Also, for some reason the importance of John More has been drastically reduced. In the second version he is replaced by Sir Henry Norris in II.ii and II.iii, his monologue at III.iv is shortened (and the Italian song he originally sang is eliminated), as is his final speech in III.v. The dramatic effect of John More’s monologue in III.iv is greatly diminished in the second redaction: since he has been replaced by Norris in II.ii and II.iii, this speech can no longer be read as the recantation of a man disabused of his former illusions. His role is especially reduced in Act V: his speech in V.i is considerably curtailed, his part is somewhat abbreviated at 1855ff., and the play’s final scene, now reduced to a single rather brief speech by John More, is the truncated — and, at least in comparison with its predecessor, somewhat perfunctory — remnant of a considerably more elaborate lamentation scene featuring the Citizen and the Chorus (and once more the music associated with this scene is eliminated). But the alteration in John More’s role cannot be measured merely by adding up the number of lines eliminated from his speeches, it also involves a fundamental recasting of his role. In the original play, when we first meet him in II.ii he is a naive and optimistic young courtier. His interview with Bishop John Fisher in II.iii does a certain amount to disabuse him of his illusions, but it is not until after the arrest of Fisher and his father that the scales fall completely from his eyes, and he denounces the ways of the Court in his monologue at III.iv. Even at this point in his development, he is not quite sure how much he wants his father to remain steadfast in his opposition to Henry, or whether he wants him to recant for his family’s sake (this is reflected in his speech at 1161ff.). It is not until late in the play that John appears fully to comprehend his father’s greatness and wholeheartedly embrace his martyrdom. I am about to argue that Thomas Morus was written by the same author as the English College tragedy Thomas Cantuariensis, preserved in the same manuscript and acted in 1613. One of the talents of our author displayed in this latter work is his ability to depict the change of character over time, as is shown in the evolution of Young King Henry and the four assassins of Thomas à Becket during the course of the play. As originally conceived, the role of John More featured a similar evolutionary arc, but in his revised version the author does much to diminish the power of the portrait he had at first created. The reason for this change is unclear, maybe he no longer had at his disposal an actor of sufficient ability to play the role as originally written.
8. The third result is simpler to describe and discuss. Save for instrumental music that presumably accompanied the dancing in II.iii, the play has been stripped of its music: an unnamed Italian song sung by John More at the end of the passage subsequently replaced by 1110-14, and offstage music originally performed at the end of the play. Although the elimination of music was another way of shortening the play’s length, these alterations, too, may indicate that the reviser altered the play for different performance conditions, in which the actor who would play John More did not have a good singing voice and the same instrumental resources were not available.
9. There are plenty of reason, large and small, for thinking that Thomas Morus and Thomas Cantuariensis were written by the same playwright. I have just mentioned his interest in presenting characters who undergo major evolutions of attitude over time. Another common denominator of these plays, obviously, is a shared interest in the subject of Catholic martyrdom suffered in the conflict between papal and state supremacy. Then too, the author of these plays appears to have been unusual among Jesuit playwrights for his willingness to engage in polemics. The principal historian of English Jesuit drama, William H. McCabe, concluded “There was, then, some polemical drama on the Jesuit stage, but comparatively little. And it seems to be a fact that playwrights of the [Jesuit] order, while they attacked heresy and its consequences, generally abstained from odious methods of conducting opposition.” NOTE 4 But in Thomas Cantuariensis the Angel foretells to Thomas à Becket the future of the English Church (1210ff.):

Laeta pax illam evehet
Emersus imo donec inferno haeresim
Spirans profanam polluet terras teter
Wiccliffus. Illi terminus monstro brevis
Ignes perennis. Scela post aliquot putre
Sed suscitabit virus, et vires dabit
Malo Lutherus Teuto, borealis plagae
Ferox Erynnis. Ille quas strages dabit,
Quas orbe toto gentibus pestes seret
Et tam profanum tinget has terras malum!

[“A happy peace will uplift it until churlish Wycliffe, come up from Hell, breathes heresy and pollutes the land. Eternal fire will swiftly make an end of that monster. Some centuries after, German Luther will stir up a foul toxin and give strength to evil, that fierce Fury of the northern clime. What massacres he will provide, what plagues for all the nations of the world, and what a profound evil will taint this land!”]

And a few lines later (1227ff.)::

Ah longo ducetur stamine saeclum,
Illud et ambages falsas patietur et artes.
Esse scelus pietas credetur, faemina tantum
Praestigiis vilique manu comitata nocebit.

[“Ah, that that century’s thread will be long in the drawing, and will suffer false turnings and false arts. To be evil will be deemed piety, a woman, accompanied only by deceptions and a vile crew, will work harm.”]

We find much the same kind of thing in Thomas Morus, this time carried to the point that it invites direct comparison with the kind of crude Anglican Catholic-bashing one finds in such Cambridge comedies as John Hacket’s Loiola and the anonymous Risus Anglicanus. NOTE 5 Much of Act I is devoted to the idea that Henry and his accomplices are doing Hell’s work. Was the author aware of Anglican propagandistic works (beginning with George Peele’s 1585 Pareus) in which the Catholic Church is represented as carrying out Satan’s mandates, and did he deliberately write this as a counterblast? In Thomas Morus, too, Elizabeth is singled out for personal attack. NOTE 6 Speaking of the child destined to be born to Anne Boleyn, the Devil predicts (76ff.):

pellex Anna regalem obtinet
Incesta thalamum, filia an coniux viro
Incerta. Dubia sobole perturbat domum,
Dum sibi sororem parturit, neptim viro.
Horrere monstri vulgus attonitum stupet,
Horrent amici.

[“…unchaste Anne, the whore, obtains the royal bedchamber. It is unclear whether she is a daughter or a wife to her husband. She throws his household into confusion with her questionable offspring, as she gives birth to a sister for herself, a niece for her husband. The astonished common folk are amazed by the horror of this monstrosity, your friends shudder.”]

10. A second shared feature of these plays is that that their author, presumably a priest, is able to enrich his characterizations by drawing on his professional understanding of sin. One of the ways this understanding manifests itself in Thomas Cantuariensis is that he makes the point that an assortment of conspiring sinners is not a genuine community, but rather that “there is no honor among thieves.” Thus in III.i we are shown the four knights who will kill Thomas à Becket squabbling among themselves over precedence in the favor of Henry II. Only in play’s final scene (V.ii), when they have repented their sin, do they achieve mutual concord. Much the same point is made in one scene of Thomas Morus (IV.i) in which each of Henry’s accomplices in turn denounces the others behind their backs.
11. Thomas Morus and Thomas Cantuariensis also display similarities of imagery, vocabulary, and metrics. Thomas Cantuariensis contains a passage at 63ff. describing the heraldry of the vices that preside over the royal court of England:

Ambitio, comes
Et praeses aulae regiae, regum tumet
Spoliis duorum, sceptra qui fastu pari
Nunc Albionis polluunt. Pictum gerit
Struthio-camelum, sydera notat impotens
Bellua, volatu sordidum nullo solum
Ultra levatur. Parma torpenti sequens
Debetur Otio, illa fert multa gravem
Umbra, rigescens inter Arctoas nives
Quae stertit ursam.

[“Ambition, that companion and president of the royal Court, is grown fat with the spoils of two kings who pollute it with equal disdain for Albion. She bears a painted ostrich, she helplessly observes the starry beasts, not lifted above the sordid ground by any flight. The following shield belongs to Sloth, it carries a bear, heavy with many a shadow, who snores amidst the northern snows, knowing not what the sun sees in mid-year, or what the winter brings to the earth.”]

This rather baroque (and, evidently, highly idiosyncratic) use of heraldic images, whereby they are virtually converted into emblems, finds a close parallel in the passage at Thomas Morus 579ff., in which a group of shields are produced in the course of a revel, each bearing an emblem intended to be complementary to Henry VIII. Another resemblance between these two plays is that, while the Romans used to mark auspicious and inauspicious days in their calendars with white and black stones, a practice mentioned by some of their poets (cf., for example, Martial IX.liii, diesque nobis signanda melioribus lapillis), in both Thomas Morus and Thomas Cantuariensis the author uses a less common image of black pebbles of condemnation cast in a voting urn (possibly he got this image from Ovid, Metamorphoses XV.43f., et omnis / calculus inmitem demittitur ater in urnam): cf. Thomas Cantuariensis 1052f. seu niveo favet / Nostris (namque potest omnia) calculo and 1065, Nil decolori calculo reiecimus. In Thomas Morus we find the same image at 634, Nec arbor atrum calculum fugit, add 1445f., resque calculis nondum nigris / Decreta.
12. The author of Thomas Morus displays an idiosyncratic vocabulary habit, a tendency to mint neologisms. Thus we have subin at 294 (a shortened form of subinde, formed on the analogy of the relation of dein to deinde), taminet (= contaminet) at 480, and fragari at 1351 (I would suppose that fragor = frango is minted as a back-formation from refragor). The peculiarity of 1289 sacricollis is that it is divided over two iambic lines. A different kind of neologism is found at 299, where turbe seems to indicate some such small water craft as a flyboat or pinnace. I do not know if the neologism sensa at 1313 is supposed to exactly = sensus. Yet another neologism is 1393 enube. It is significant that the verb taminet is also found at Thomas Cantuariensis 969. That play also contains the neologism omninumeris at 681. Another vocabulary habit common to both plays is a tendency to employ certain pet words, perhaps most notably manus, nescius and sceptrum, as well as the odd and evidently unclassical phrase inferni incolae (Thomas Cantuariensis 420, Thomas Morus 403). The metrics of both plays are similar. Both are written in iambics that freely admit resolutions, sometimes multiple ones in a line.
13. A striking feature of both plays is that they contain incomplete lines. I have already enumerated those in Thomas Morus that are produced by cuts in the text, and the original version contains one more such line, 1419, perhaps mitigated by being the final line in a scene. Thomas Cantuariensis contains similar half-lines (133, 441, 575, 1518, and just possibly 902). Another peculiarity of that play is that initial dramatis personae list contains two characters (Raymond and the Earl of Cornwall) who do not appear in the play as we have it. Thomas Cantuariensis is preserved in a copy manuscript, and I therefore suggested that the text of the play may be the result of a process of shortening revision similar to that of Thomas Morus, it looks remarkably like what we would have if someone were to have made a fair copy of the revised Thomas Morus manuscript.
14. The same manuscript that preserves our play also contains the text of an intermedium, Vulpinus, a set of farcical interludes written to be performed between the acts of Thomas Morus. I take this opportunity to thank Dr. Martin Wiggins for suggesting various ways in which the present edition could be improved.

 

NOTES

NOTE 1 The present edition, which presents Thomas Morus in its final redaction, is based on the sole ms. text of the entire play. A second, partial manuscript, also bound in the volume shelfmarked as MS. 321, is described by Brian Foley, “Thomas Morus Tragoedia,” The Venerabile 7 (1935) 94f. Cf. also Suzanne Gossett, “English Plays in the English College Archives,” The Venerabile 28:1 (1983) 23. It is striking that in the fragmentary manuscript, as described by Foley, John More is not replaced by Sir Henry Norris in Act II. This indicates it must represent the text of an earlier version of the play.

NOTE 2 By Brian Foley, “Thomas Morus Tragoedia,” The Venerabile 7 (1935) 95.

NOTE 3 Archival evidence exists that the play was performed six times during Carnival week of 1612: cf. Suzanne, Gossett, “Drama in the English College, Rome, 1591 - 1660,” English Literary Renaissance 3 (1973) 91. Since the manuscript specifies three performances and not not six, it seems plausible to assume that Thomas Morus was the subject of two revival performances after the 1612 Carnival season.
To this the objection may be lodged that, with the exception of Carnival 1618 (which was, I suspect, the occasion when the tragedy Roffensis was produced), the schedule of known Carnival performances for the years following 1612 given by Gossett (loc. cit.) would not permit the revival performances I postulate. But Foley (pp. 96f.) presents evidence for one non-Carnival performance (in 1646), and who is to exclude the possibility that there may have been more at an earlier date?

NOTE 4 William H. McCabe, S. J., An Introduction to the Jesuit Theater (published posthumously as edited by Louis J. Oldani, S. J., St. Louis, 1983), 256f. See also Karl Von Reinhardsettner, “Zur Geschichte des Jesuitendramas in München,” Jahrbuch fur Münch. Gesch. (Bamberg, 1889) 59.

NOTE 5 Loiola was printed in 1648, Risus Anglicanus only exists in a manuscript. Neither play has a modern edition, and they have not been translated. Cf. Risus Anglicanus; Loiola by  John Hacket; prepared with an introduction by Malcolm M. Brennan (Renaissance Latin Drama in England 2:6, Hildesheim, 1988). In Risus Anglicanus, too, Lucifer appears and eggs on the Catholics to do their worst against the Protestants. This is a play that would strike many modern readers as disgusting, and nearly everybody as tedious, and the single thing that might commend it to the attention of modern readers is the possibility that it was written under the influence of John Donne’s Ignatius his Conclave.

NOTE 6 It is interesting that all this vitriol is reserved for Elizabeth and James is spared similar treatment. Even after the events of the Gunpowder Plot, did the Jesuits hold their fire in hope of some reconciliation with the English government?