1. Evidently it was the standard practice at the Jesuit English College in Rome in the early seventeenth century to perform a series of farcical entr’actes (collectively called an intermedium) between the acts of a tragedy. One such pairing already exists in the Philological Museum, the 1613 tragedy Thomas Cantauriensis and the intermedium Minutum. In the preceding year another pairing had been produced, the tragedy Thomas Morus and the present Vulpinus (these pairings are established by a note written on fol. 2v of English College Archives ms. Lib. 321). In connection with Thomas Morus I have argued that it and Thomas Cantuariensis were written by the same author. Likewise, it seems certain that Minutum and Vulpinus were written by the same individual, although there is no reason to think the same man wrote the intermedia and the tragedies. This is because, except for a few slips of the pen, the texts of both intermedia, which are written in the same hand, are free of copying mistakes and so are clearly the author’s holographs (this same individual is also responsible for our text of Thomas Cantuariensis, but this time an abundance of transcriptional errors show he was only functioning as a copyist).
2. Presumably so as not to interfere unduly with the effect of the accompanying tragedies, both intermedia were deliberately designed to be entertaining but insubstantial. In the first three acts of Vulpinus Mercury, having run away from heaven, has brief encounters with stock characters familiar from the comic stage: a boastful solder, a pedantic schoolmaster, and a pair of country bumpkins. Act IV is a short monologue in which the exasperated god decides to return to heaven. The miles gloriosus and the bumpkins already existed in Roman comedy. The pedant was by now a familiar figure in English academic comedy, as represented by such characters as the title character in Edward Forset’s 1581 Pedantius and Onophrius in Abraham Fraunce’s 1583 Victoria (both, as it happens, Cambridge plays). Indeed, some of the idiosyncrasies of “Marcus Publius Flaccus Naso”— his Ciceronianism, his interest in etymologies and language — sufficiently resemble those of Pedantius that one is tempted to suspect that our author had read and studied Forset’s comedy.
3. Vulpinus is preserved in English College Archives ms. Lib. 321, fols. 47r - 60r. Minutum is composed in what might be described as iambic senarii, at least if read with the eye of charity, but although Vulpinus is written out stichically as if it were verse, it is ineluctably prose. Elsewhere I have explained that this practice, common in Elizabethan and Jacobean academic comedy, appears to have been no more than a writing convention designed to give plays the physical appearance of Plautus and Terence (which were understood to have been written in prose until Bentley demonstrated otherwise in the eighteenth century). Normally, therefore, I present the texts of such plays in prose form. In this case, I have retained the manuscript line-divisions here, for no better reason than to leave room for the numerous marginal stage directions.
4. Finally, a word needs to be said about the title. Ms. 321 contains the texts of three tragedies (Thomas Morus, Thomas Cantuariensis, Roffensis), each with an associated intermedium. In the manuscript, no intermedium is given a title. As stated above, the linkage of the tragedies with their respective intermedia is guaranteed by a note on the back of folio 2. Absent titles, the writer of this note indentified the intermedia by citing the character or characters who appear in the speaker lists their first acts (Minutum, Mercurius, and, for the third one, Sensus, Fronto and Somnium). Having no idea what its author originally called it (if indeed intermedia were deemed worthy of being given titles) I have imitated the author of the ms. note and used the title Minutum to designate the intermedium paired withThomas Cantuariensis. It would be possible to designate the present one Mercurius, but since Mercury goes by the name Vulpinus throughout this work, it seems more reasonable to call it Vulpinus.
5. 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. I take this opportunity to thank Dr. Martin Wiggins for suggesting various ways in which the present edition could be improved.