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The setting is everywhere supposed to be entirely Italian, and also the Forum Exoticum elsewhere, and the Gates of Hell are not associated with any particular place.


The speakers


Familiar imps

DELIRIUM belonging to Tortus
PROFANITY belonging to Scioppe
SYCOPHANCY belonging to Pacenius
IMPUDENCE belonging to Eudaemon
FOOLISHNESS belonging to Becanus
EMPTINESS belonging to Coquaeus


A RETURNING SPY speaks the Prologue
in the costume of a Master of Arts

spacerThe play now about to be performed is purely the sport of a few hours. Levity herself acknowledges it as a child born under her hand, Joking is its midwife, and Laughter its nursemaid. Has anybody ever forbidden a laughing man to speak truth in a prologue? Long ago our poet realized that quite enough of earnest efforts and serious art have been expended on this subject. And so now our victims will be sacrificed to the spleen: our play singles out some beasts from that right scurvy herd of Jesuits to be mocked with a display of your pearly teeth. So be favorable, my friends, and suffer our little story to be performed in the comic manner. (Now the play’s title is first revealed.) English Laughter begs this favor and, behold, it begins.


Lucifer and Paul enter from the Ignatianum, looking glum. Ignatius has an angrier look, and they take hold of him as he is working sod near the doorway.

IGN. What’s this evil? Are you gripping me? Let Ignatius look out for himself. Had we lacked you at the beginning, we would have been completely ruined. Now that we have gathered strength, we are self-sufficient. But we both have you as our support, Father. But now that we are given a legitimate reason to fear the evil which unhappy England has long since created for you and your empire, can you use your vengeful hands to avert it?spacer
spacerPAUL I fear it is fatal and cannot in any way be changed.
spacerIGN. You helpless, fearful pair! Alas, how I have come to feel shame and pity since you have suddenly lost your old courage, and surrendered voluntarily, your power shattered!
spacerLUC. I don’t know if Hercules himself together with his Atlas could bear up under the burden which weighs us down.
spacerIGN. If you continue even a little longer to allow your affairs to be turned topsy-turvy and weaken, soon Salvation herself won’t be able to prevent you from losing your empire. Look here, why to you hesitate, thus paralyzed? Where are your old wiles, Lucifer, and your wrath, Your Holiness?
spacerPAUL England has foiled our every attempt.
spacerIGN. Now I’ll make you both realize how indebted to you are to Ignatius (He breathes his spirit into Lucifer.) Behold, father of Erebus, I bless you with this spirit, all your Acheron can scarcely provide its equal.
spacerPAUL This son of mine always surpasses Prometheus, he reinvigorates the very demons.
spacerIGN. What? Do you feel yourself warming up as this spirit enlivens you? Are your flourishing strength and returning? Is your courage equal to making attempts?
spacerLUC. Medea did not boil old man Aeson once upon a time so much as this inspiration of your revives Lucifer. (He loudly bellows and goes whirling about.)
spacerIGN. Aye, indeed a fine display/ Now I’ll help you further with my considered advice. Hear me, my sons, and do as I wish as quickly as you can.
spacerLUC. I shall do so.
spacerIGN. Go inside and muster your bands.
spacerLUC. It shall be done.
spacer IGN. And from all that assembly choose for me six fine imps of the better sort: rabid souls, and quick to carry out every command.
spacerLUC. I recall that no few demons of that kind served me down in deepest Tartarus.
spacerIGN. By Hercules, take care that you make a careful selection.
spacerLUC. You’ll praise them when you see them. What next?
spacerIGN. In place of their Hellish equipment you must outfit them lavishly with whatever is needful for the making of books: type, presses, pens, pencils, parchment, linen paper, all the printers’ arsenal. What? Do you have this sufficiently committed to memory?
spacerLUC. No need for further words, I’ll perform this sumptuously.
spacerIGN. So make haste hastily, so that they might quickly come out to me with these badges of office. Leave the rest to me.
spacerLUC. I’ll do so, they’ll be out right soon. (Exit Lucifer, bound for Dis.)


PAUL. What are you undertaking, my salvation?
spacerIGN. Looking out for you in a way you can’t look out for yourself.
spacerPAUL. How ardent I am for you, you darling of a man!
spacerIGN. There’s no time for ardor. Rather, if (as I recall you have informed me more than once) you have at hand any outstanding rascals, whose sense of shame and common sense have perished, whose hearts are triple-bound with brass, whose tongues are dipped in bile, whose inmost beings exude pure Hell, men who are poor in money but rich in audacity, enlist them for me as soon as you can.
spacerPAUL. That’s been done already. They have been recruited and put to the sword. The Venetian war quickly used up my Italian armies.
spacerIGN. I can barely stand you, you great coward! They’ve perished for their city, so the world is devoid of forces? I hardly care where you get them. For me you must disturb France, creep about in Germany, try Greece, summon Spain to your side, scour Poland, provoke England herself against the English so it might go ill for them. Even if not among the Italians, find somebody of a very depraved character to work as a substitute and let him sharpen his pencil and unlimber his pen.
spacerPAUL But there’s something I’d whisper in your ear, Father. More than once I have heard our people complaining that they have undertaken a responsibility beyond their capacity and are helpless immediately to blunt our enemies’ power.
spacerIGN. Diablo, what’s this cowardice? I’m not requesting men who stand their ground, incapable of moving from place to place. Give me men swift of foot, mobile in body and shifty in character, who purposefully dodge in their writings whatever assault is too harsh. They are only to do this which, in accordance with their individual natures, they deem to be suitable for mockery. I want them to be lively skirmishers in literary battle. What? Has my Society ceased manufacturing characters of that sort?
spacerPAUL. Ah, fear not, Father. There are most praiseworthy fellows there now, able to do that energetically. I’ll soon arrange for this tribe of scribblers to be found in abundance. You’ll appreciate this when I give the signal.
spacerIGN. Now you’re pleasing me.
spacerPAUL. Do you have any command to give me?
spacerIGN. Nothing except that you provide me with men trained to do this work.
spacerPAUL. I’ll do so. (Exit to the Vatican.)


IGN. If my eyes are working properly, something from Dis is approaching me.

Enter Impudence with lengthy scrolls of parchment, Delirium with a belt of full of spectacles, Profanity with ink, Sycophancy with codicils, Emptiness with goose-quills, and Foolishness with miniature printing presses.

spacerWe, the most elite of Hell’s legions, hasten here, trading the murk of Avernus for this air.

spacerYou gunpowder men who have come back to us with your work unfinished, you poor parliamentarians, you have yielded place to us.

Ignatius. thanks be to you and Lucifer, and to Paul the Fifth, our trinity.

spacerNew arms are granted us, each of us has his book-making tool: pens and ink and type.

spacerFrankfurt Fair will resound with our works, and the holy Vatican will bless it with new volumes.

Ignatius. thanks be to you and Lucifer, and to Paul the Fifth, our trinity.

spacerDiligently we creep through every region, and dedicate the scurrilous legions we have recruited to the press.

spacerFinal war is declared, you stiff-necked Protestants. If you emerge triumphant, the peak of papacy is cast down.

spacerIgnatius. thanks be to you and Lucifer, and to Paul the Fifth, our trinity.

spacer IGN. Elegantly sung, elegantly, my angels. Heavens, I have to caress Lucifer for this fine corps.
spacerIMPUDENCE He bade me present you with this list of our names, written on parchment.
spacerIGN. Well done! Now each of you answer me in turn, as I call on you individually by name. First of all, Impudence here is leading your column.
spacerIMP. That’s me.
spacerIGN. Heavens, a fine commander! (He kisses Ignatius’ hand.) Approach, premonition is greatly to my liking. Profanity is your second in command.
spacerPRO. He is looking at you in the flesh.
spacerIGN. Well done. Then comes Delirium.
spacerDEL. At your service.
spacerIGN. With a white head of hair? Ah well, that’s my image reflected in you. Next we have Sycophancy.
spacerSYC. You speak my name.
spacerIGN. Folly is fifth.
spacerFOL. Here I am.
spacerIGN. And you, Emptiness, bring up the rear.
spacerEMPT. That’s my name.
spacerIGN. ’Pon my life, you are a most elite army. Come, my beloved sons, harken with eager ears to the blessings and mandates your father issues.
spacerIMP. Speak. We are standing hear waiting to hear your wish.
spacerIGN. According to his individual ability, let each of you exert himself and display his talent. Individual authors will be assigned to each of you, as assigned by my Pope Paul. My task will be to egg you on and fill you with new furies, so that a man will never be lacking to spew truly Hellish venom on the English.
spacerIMP. On the English?
spacerALL Excellent!
spacerIGN. And particular care must be taken that they evilly flay each good English writer, so that out of fear of abuse they are quite deterred from upholding their side of the argument. Say anything you wish, oh good sirs, about anybody you chose, and say it with greater confidence in proportion to its distance from the truth. This is all I want. Do you understand?
spacerSYC. Not to worry, Father.
spacerALL Against the English.
spacerIGN. I’ll be sure to repay this favor. Each of you should perform his duty to myself punctually. He who thinks otherwise should be mindful of Loyola’s traditional discipline. (Exit to the Ignatianum.)
spacerALL. Hooray! Long may you live, Father. Ignatius. thanks be to you and Lucifer, and to Paul the Fifth, our trinity. (Exeunt to the Vatican.)

Go to Act II