1. The comedy Risus Anglicanus is preserved in Folger Shakespeare Library ms. J.a.1 NOTE 1 . This manuscript is (or rather was) a poetic and dramatic quarto composite assembled and bound within boards in the eighteenth century and recently broken back down into its component parts. It is tentatively identified as a Cambridge play by Alan Nelson NOTE 2 because it comes down to us in “a manuscript collection containing...plays which may also have originated in Cambridge (i. e., Boot and Spur, A Christmas Messe, Gigantomachia...)” NOTE 3, but the force of this argument is spoiled by the fact that this collection contains no item definitely attributable to Cambridge but at least one (John Sandsbury’s Periander, produced at St. John’s College in 1608) has impeccably Oxonian credentials. Moreover, the text of our play seems to contain one detail pointing to Oxford. In the Epilogue the Jesuit Robert Parsons concludes with the words (1691f.) veteris vestri Parsonii causa plaudite (“or for the sake of your old Parsons give your applause.”) and we must ask why Parsons is called “your.” The answer would seem to be that Parsons had once been a member of Bailiol College so that the audience is being asked to regard him, for all his faults, as an Oxford man.
2. Moreover, Risus Anglicanus will undoubtedly strike many modern readers as monumentally tedious and unfunny, and it very likely made a similar impression on some contemporaries. But no matter. This play was patently not designed to please us, or probably them either. Rather, it was written for consumption by a single man, King James. It is well known what pleasure James had taken in George Ruggle’s 1615 Cambridge comedy Ignoramus (so much so that a special second performance was given at the king’s hunting lodge at Newmarket). Apparently the author of Risus Anglicanus made the guess (perhaps not a wrong one) that what James had particularly liked about Ignoramus had been its Second Prologue and II.iii, featuring rather heavy-handed anti-Catholic humor, much of it aimed at the Jesuits and ad hominem stuff directed against Kaspar Schioppe and other Catholic controversialists who had dared cross swords with James in print, and had calculated that the king would like an entire play filled with such stuff even more. Such an understanding appears to have influenced Martin Wiggins and Catherine Richardson, who in their recent survey of British drama of the period tentatively assigned the play a date of ca. 1614 - 1618 (the cut-off date is suggested by the absence of any acknowledgement in the play that Thomas Fitzherbert was appointed Rector of the English College at Rome in 1618). The date can in fact be fixed with greater precision, since at 1568 there is an allusion to a book published in 1616: the play must have been written in 1616 or 1617.
3. If there is any truth in the supposition that Risus Anglicanus was written for James’ personal delectation, we must then ask on what specific occasion might this delight have been purveyed. We are therefore interested in the king’s movements during 1616 and 1617. During this period he drew no closer to Cambridge than a Newmarket sojourn in November 1616. NOTE 4 Oxford looks a good deal more promising. He passed August 1616 at Woodstock, where, on some unspecified day of the month,
...the Vice-chancellor of Oxford, certain Heads of Houses, Proctors, and others, went to do their obedience to him. The king receiving them graciously, the Orator made a Speech; which being done, the King gave them his hand to kiss, with a promise that he would continue favourable to the University, and see that learning and learned men be encouraged. Afterward they presented to him and certain of the Nobles very rich gloves...
On the 28th of the month,
[Prince Charles] came honourably attended; and having deliberately visited the University, the Schools, Colleges, and Libraries, and after he had been entertained with ceremonies and feasting suitable to his dignity and merit, he was pleased with his own hand-writing to matriculate himself a Member of the University.
If it had been understood or suspected that James would accompany his son on this visit, this would have had the effect of transforming the occasion into a full-blown royal visitation, and the production of new plays was standard entertainment fare in connection with such events. NOTE 5 Here we have a highly plausible context for the production of Risus Anglicanus within the time-frame in which we are interested. Its unrelenting anti-Catholic humor would have made this play an ideal vehicle whereby the university could profess its loyal orthodoxy. Such a protestation may have been timely. The exercise performed earlier in the month, in which Oxford’s leading lights trooped out to Woodstock to pledge their fealty to James and received in exchange a royal assurance that he would “continue favourable” suggests that there was some momentary estrangement that needed to be ironed out. If so, a production of Risus Anglicanus would have been useful for reinforcing the university’s affirmation of loyalism. But in the event, perhaps because he did not want to overshadow his son on this occasion, James did not come, and no production of our play is attested in surviving records.
4. The play takes a comic look in turn at a series of Catholic writers, mostly but not all Jesuits, who had had the temerity to debate James, or at least call into question the legitimacy of the Anglican religion over which he presided, and in each case the same two basic points are made about each of them: a) by introducing an exact inversion of their claims, they (like the Roman Catholic Church is a whole) are agents of Satan on this earth, NOTE 6 and b.) each of them is actually inspired by a shabby personal motive: the Pope has pledged himself to reward the most successful polemicist with the dignity of a cardinalate, symbolized by the scarlet of a cardinal’s robe, and each writer (except Robert Bellarmine, who already was a cardinal, but we are given a strong hint at 197ff. that he harbors ambition to become the next pope) has his eye firmly fixed on that prize. All readers, I suspect, will agree that Risus Anglicanus has a remarkably flimsy and inconclusive plot: it deserves to be categorized as a comedy of character rather than what the critics call a comedy of situation.
5. Four of its five Acts focus seriatim on a number of individual Catholic writers, but Act I functions as a short prologue in which Lucifer, Ignatius Loyola and Pope Paul V meet to lament the sorry condition of the Catholic cause in England. In Peele’s Pareus, Milton’s In Quintum Novembris, and a number of other similar anti -Catholic narrative poems of the period, we find variants of the same plot, easily adapted to reveal the sinister hand of the Church inspiring various individual historical events. They all begin with Satan convening an underworldly assembly at which he delivers an angry speech complaining about the situation in England. He then hatches some scheme for reasserting Catholicism in that country, goes to the Vatican and involves the Church, and then a specific English agent is recruited to implement Satan’s plan. Act I seems calculated to present a comically distorted equivalent of this narrative pattern: Ignatius Loyola is obliged to rally Lucifer and the Pope, both of whom are spineless and despondent, and fill them with enthusiasm for his plan of recruiting anti-English writers. Thus these writers are cast in the role of agents of both Hell and the Church. To serve as a constant reminder of this function they are chosen to perform, each writer is assigned an imp as his personal familiar.
6. Act II deals with the first such writer, “Matthaeus Tortus.” In 1608, at Cologne, there appeared a volume entitled Responsio Matthaei Torti presbyteri, et theologi Papiensis, ad librum inscriptim Triplici Nodo, Triplex Cuneus (“The Response of Matthaeus Tortus, presbyter and priest of Pavia, to the Book Entitled ‘A Triple Wedge for a Triple Knot’”) James had written this book in response to two letters (breves) by Pope Paul V and one by Cardinal Robert Bellarmine [1542 - 1621]. Pope Paul had sent a letter to the Catholics in England forbidding them to subscribe to King James’ Oath of Allegiance. But the archpriest George Blackwell, head of the English Catholic secular clergy, informed the faithful that it was permissible to take the oath. This elicited the Pope’s second letter and the one from Bellarmine, castigating him for having done so. So he changed his mind and forbade what he had previously allowed. Then Blackwell was imprisoned, changed his mind once more and took the oath himself, and was eventually removed from his office by Rome. This episode involved a pamphlet war waged copiously by both sides (briefly sketched here), which included James’ own Triple Knot book. Bellarmine weighed in again with a counterblast to James his 1608 Cologne volume, written under the name of his chaplain Matthaeus Tortus. NOTE 7 The appearance of James’ book elicited an avalanche of Catholic responses, of which “Matthaeus Tortus’” pamphlet was just one. Indeed, most (although not quite all — Francisco Suarez’ was considerably more broad-guage) of the writers lampooned in our play were authors of such responses, some of which were more or less scurrilous and personally offensive to the king.
7. The Tortus book begins with a preface supplied by its printer, Bernhardt Walther. But since the premise of Risus Anglicus requires that all the Catholic polemicists it lampoons must be based at Rome, the epicenter of all evil, our play’s author found it necessary to substitute an Italian printer, Politanus (evidently an invented character).
8. In the course of Act II (234ff.) we are also introduced to a second character, the Greek Andreas Eudaemon-Johannis, another Jesuit who weighed in frequently against the Church of England and its apologists. By this time he had produced no less than six anti-Anglican tracts. He haled from Cydon on Crete, which permitted our author to invoke the old proverb “all Cretans are liars.” Eudaemon-Johannis was sometimes thought to be a pseudonym for Kaspar Scioppe or the French Jesuit Jean L’Hereux, but our author clearly did not subscribe to any such theory.
9/.. Two further Catholic apologists are introduced in this Act. The first is Martinus Becanus, a Flemish Jesuit based at Mainz in Westphalia (hence in our play he is occasionally called “Martin of Mainz”). Between 1610 and 1613 he had matched Eudaemon-Johannis’ attacks on the Church of England and the Oath of Allegiance with six of his own (his 1613 Controversia Anglicana de Potestate Pontificis et Regis is mentioned at 1143). The second is Gaspar Scioppe or Scoppe [Scoppius, 1576 - 1649]. He had an established reputation as a scientist and Humanist (according to Izaak Disraeli in his 1824 Curiosities of Literature he was “a critic as skilful as Salmasius or Scaliger,” but his enemy Joseph Scaliger alleged that he had committed more blunders than he had corrected) when, in 1598, he converted to Catholicism. For this Pope Clement VIII created him a Knight of St. Peter and soon thereafter Comes (English translation: Earl) Apostolicus de Claravalle and settled on him an annual pension. In about 1607 he entered the service of Archduke Ferdinand of Styria, who subsequently became the Emperor Ferdinand II, who employed him on various diplomatic errands. In 1608 he was briefly imprisoned at Venice for trying to persuade the statesman Paolo Sarpi to support the papal side during a dispute between that city and the Holy See. While at Madrid in 1614 he was beset by some bullyboys in the service of Lord John Digby, the English ambassador to Spain, who slit his nose in retaliation for the rough personal handling of King James. He churned out an enormous amount of anti-Protestant writings — twenty in 1608 alone — some crossing swords with such Protestant Humanists as Joseph Scaliger and Isaac Casaubon but many aimed against James and his theory of royal supremacy. All in all, he was (as Izaak Walton put it in his Life of Sir Henry Wotton) “a man of a restless spirit and a malicious pen.” No wonder, then, that unsigned venomous attacks on James, such as the 1615 Corona Regia maliciously attributed to Casaubon, often came to be attributed to him. Scioppe’s 1611 Ecclesiasticus is specifically mentioned at lines 414f.
10. Act III adds two more figures to the play’s rogues’ gallery of Catholic writers. The first is “Bartolus Pacenius,” although in truth (as was revealed by the Scotsman Andrew Aidie, employed as Professor of Philosophy at Danzig) this was a pseudonym for a scurrilous attack on James by Father Robert Abercromby S. J. [156 - 1613]: NOTE 8
Geo. Montgomery, Bishop of Meath elect, to Salisbury. States that the bearer, And<rew> Aidie, Professor of Philosophy in Dantzic College, was the means of suppressing the infamous libel against the King, which came out under the name of Bartolus Pacenius, but is really by the Jesuit Abercrombie, now living near Dantzic, whom he offers to apprehend and send over, if encouraged to do so.
The author of our play seems to have taken the title page of his pamphlet at face value, unaware that “Bartolus Pacenius” was a pseudonym. The title of his pamphlet was Exetasis epistolæ nomine regis. In the play, a certain amount of humor is generated by relating the name “Bartolus” to that of the great fourteenth century jurist and legal writer Bartolo de Sassoferrato (this was encouraged by the fact that his book’s title page identifies the writer as “Bartolus Pacenius I. C.”) The second is Leonardus Coquaeus O. S. A. [Léonard Coqueau, d. 1615], author of the Examen Praefationis Monitoriae Iacobi I published at Freiburg in 1610.
11. In Act V we meet more Catholic writers. The first is Francisco Suarez S. J. [1548 - 1617], known as Doctor Eximius, ,professor of theology at the Portuguese Universidade de Coimbria, author of Defensio Fidei Catholicae et Apostolicae Adversus Anglicanae Sectae Errores (1613). He does not deserve being lumped together with the other polemicists in this our play in the sense that he was a far more serious and high-minded theologian, who in this treatise at least ostensibly wrote about James with respect and politeness. In his treatise, and in his previous Tractatus de Legibus ac Deo Legislatore (1612) he contended that ultimate political authority is not immediately granted to a king by God, but rather to the civil community of the people he governs, and is only entrusted to a king by his people by an arrangement which the community is entitled to revoke upon and just and sufficient cause, for illegal or tyrannical behavior. His argument seems to duplicate that of George Buchanan in his famous De Iure Regni apud Scotos Dialogus (1579), but he was no proto-republican. Rather, his concern was that if you accept the idea that the king has a special relationship with God and rules by immediately-conferred divine authority, this leaves no room for the Church. This would abrogate, for example, the theory that the pope was entitled to intervene and remove a heretical sovereign (according to which Pius V had excommunicated Elizabeth in 1570). Although his position was framed in opposition to James and his Oath of Supremacy, the problem was that it also threatened to undermine claims of supreme authority advanced by Catholic sovereigns. Hence in 1613 a debate hotly raged within the Université de Paris about the nature of kingship, in which Suarez’ arguments figured prominently. When the Parlement de Paris came down firmly on the side of the “gallicist” position in the following year, his works were condemned and burned.
12. In V.vi we are also introduced to the Jesuit Thomas Fitzherbert [1552 - 1640], who on the strength of the fact that he choose to write his various works in the vernacular, is characterized as an unschooled lout, ignorant of Latin and only capable of addressing the equally uneducated laity. The facts that he had served as an amanuensis to Edmund Campion, digging out patristic passages from libraries to assist Campion while he was writing Decem Rationes and that he served as Rector of the English College at Rome from 1618 until the year before his death, tend to show that his portrayal in the play is grossly unfair. In the same Act appears the ghost of the late Robert Parsons S. J. [1546 - 1610], sometime Rector of the English College at Rome, and a major figure in establishing and operating the Jesuit “English Mission.” Understandably, the other characters defer to his superior authority and rely on his guidance.
13. A concluding word must be said about the play’s staging. At its beginning, the ms. specifies five locales, the Ignatianum (i. e. the Jesuit headquarters at Rome, the Curia Generalizia of the Order), the Forum Romanum (“Roman market-place”), the Vatican, the Forum Exoticum (“Foreign market-place), and the Gates of Dis. On the strength of this, it has been written “The play was intended for acting on a stage with five fixed locations with the following inscriptions above them: Ignatianum, Forum Romanum, Vaticanum, Forum Exoticum, and Ianua Ditis. Numerous stage directions send characters back and forth among these houses. This old-fashioned method was long gone from the public stage.” NOTE 9 It would be truly remarkable if a university had five onstage “houses” (the four evidently required for Abraham Fraunce’s 1583 Cambridge comedy Victoria are already very problematic: I have discussed possible solutions in a special Appendix to Fraunce’s play). One might think that less than five onstage structures were actually required, with single “houses” representing multiple venues, identified as needed by some Brechtian system of place-naming inscriptions visible to the audience. But even this understanding is unnecessary. The Forum Romanum and Forum Exoticum are only mentioned in stage directions of the “enter from/exit to the Forum Romanum” variety and we need not think of them as visible features of the stage “set” any more than were such locations as harbors in the comedies of Plautus and Terence. These stage directions are simply the author’s slightly fanciful equivalents of “enter/exit stage right/left”. The Ianua Ditis is the setting of I.i, which may have been played in front of a curtain, and the text’s Ianua Ditis loco certo non astringitur is probably to be understood as an explicit statement that this location is not represented by a “house.” This brings us down to the standard unproblematic two, representing the Ignatianum and the Vatican. How or why inscriptions were employed in this play is not clear, and it would be dangerous to assume that their use was widespread in university plays, since, at least within the scope of my reading, there is no corroborative evidence for their use in any other play.
NOTE 1 For a photographic reproduction of the manuscript, see Risus Anglicanus, John Hacket, Loiola, Prepared with an Introduction by Malcolm H. Brennan (Renaissance Drama in England series II.6 (Hildesheim, 1988). See also Martin Wiggins and Catharine Richardson, British Drama 1533 - 1642: A Catalogue (Oxford, 2012 - 16) VI.500f.
NOTE 2 Alan H. Nelson, Cambridge (Records of Early English Drama series, Toronto, 1989) II.919.
NOTE 3 Ib. II.900.
NOTE 4 John Nichols, The Progresses, Processions, and Magnificent Festivities of King James the First, His Royal Consort, Family, and Court (London, 1828) III.18, quoting Anthony à Wood’s Fasti Oxonienses but correcting the date from 1614 to 1616.
NOTE 5 The single exception to this generalization was Elizabeth’s 1591 visitation to Oxford, at which only old plays were performed in revival. No disrespect was intended: the reason was the uncommon haste with which the visitation was arranged, as a face-saving way of removing the queen from London to safety during an especially bad plague season.
NOTE 6 This inversion is standard fare in serious anti-Catholic literature beginning with George Peele’s 1585 Pareus and coming to some sort of climax in John Milton’s In Quintum Novembris. Further examples in my “Milton’s in Quintum Novembris, Anno Aetatis 17 (1626): Choices and Intentions,” in Jon Mikalson and Gareth L. Schmeling (edd.) Qui Miscuit Utile Dulci, Festschrift for Paul Lachlan MacKendrick on his 85th Birthday (Chicago, 1997) pp. 349 - 375, available online here. Something of the same narrative pattern also figures in John Donne’s humorous Ignatius his Conclave (1611), but I see no evidence that the author of our play had read and learned from that work. The similarities that do exist can be explained as commonplaces in contemporary anti-Catholic and anti-Jesuit literature.
NOTE 7 In the following year he published an Apologia pro responsione sua ad librum Jacobi Magnae Britanniae Regis under his own name.
NOTE 8 David Laing and Beriah Botfield, Original Letters Relating to the Ecclesiastical Affairs of Scotland, (Edinburgh, 1851) 589; see also Calendar of State Papers VIII.628 for August 14, 1610.
NOTE 9 Suzanne Gossett, in the Introduction to her edition of the anonymous Catholic comedy Hierarchomachia: Or, the Anti-bishop (Lewisburg Pa., 1981) p. 35.