"To take on them judgemente": Absolutism and debate in John Heywood's plays
Candance Lines. Studies in Philology. Chapel Hill: Fall 2000.Vol. 97, Iss. 4; pg. 401, 32 pgs

THE plays of the Tudor poet, dramatist, and musician John Heywood suffer the fate of much other noncanonical literature: they are critically neglected and largely unread.1 For many critics, there is apparently only one reason to read such texts: noncanonical literature is useful as a way into the canon-as prelude, epilogue, or inferior counterpart to important literature.2 What is particularly troubling about such a practice is its refusal to give attention to the importance of noncanonical texts in their own times and to the political imperatives of canon formation itself, in which literature and power become profoundly intertwined. The assertion that literature speaks the language of power is now a commonplace. It is also fundamentally flawed in its unstated equation of "literature" with the canon. A canon, like a nation, needs to have forgotten many things.3 Noncanonical texts can challenge a too simplistic view of literature in the service of power by suggesting suppressed historical contingencies, even suppressed resistance. They recall what has been forgotten in the creation of a literary and historical telos.

Heywood's plays are a case in point. As I will argue, the plays locate themselves in opposition to the absolutist tendencies, both religious and political, of the reign of Henry VIII. Most of Heywood's plays were printed during the turmoil of the early 1530s: ever-increasing political centralization; the royal divorce and remarriage; the king's rejection of papal authority and consequent claim to be head of the English church; and an outpouring of Protestant and Catholic controversial writing.4 Heywood made his career at court, in the thick of these events. Furthermore, Heywood was part of the More circle; his friends and family included prominent and influential conservatives.5 Many of the members of this group were imprisoned, exiled, or even executed for their proCatholic activities.6 Heywood himself, although he wrote plays (now lost) for reformers like Cromwell and Edward VI, remained a committed Catholic! In 1542-43, he was implicated in the Prebendaries' Plot to convict Archbishop Cranmer of heresy, and only a public recantation saved him from execution.8 In 1564, he went into exile and never returned to England. Clearly, Heywood's career was not simply that of a writer of court entertainments. His reliance on court patronage should not obscure his political situation as part of a conservative, pro-Catholic circle.

Until fairly recently, however, many critics have overlooked the plays' criticisms of royal power and the supremacy and have described Heywood's writing as frivolous, amusing, and apolitical.9 Such a reading, I would argue, is itself a depoliticizing gesture. It is not an innocent misreading, a matter of missing subtle, covert cues in cryptic texts: Heywood's literary resistance, though embedded in rhetorical structures rather than overt, is nevertheless carefully and invitingly readable. The oppositional work of Heywood's plays has been missed, I suggest, because sixteenth-century English literary studies remains bound to a historical narrative which assumes the fundamentally unchallenged rise of Protestantism and absolutism.10 The very possibility of literary and historical resistance disappears in such a narrative. One of my aims in this essay is, in Greg Walker's words, "to eliminate the effects of hindsight" -because in historical hindsight, resistance is always useless.11 For a more fully nuanced historicist reading of texts such as Heywood's, it is necessary to imagine the English reformation and Henrician absolutism not as inevitable, but as the end result of a long political and discursive struggle.

Heywood's plays appeared at a key moment of that struggle. The three plays I will discuss (The Pardoner and the Frere, The Foure PP, and The Play of the Wether) were printed in 1533,12 probably early in the year.13 Their printer was Heywood's nephew William Rastell, one of the main printers of Catholic polemic (for example, Rastell also printed three of Thomas More's controversial works in that year). In early 1533, Henry VIII was clearly on the verge of momentous decisions, but neither the royal supremacy nor the royal divorce was a foregone conclusion. Despite the submission of the clergy and the passage of legislation tending toward the supremacy (the Act of Annates, the Act in Restraint of Appeals), the king had not yet officially broken with Rome. Although Henry had secretly married Anne Boleyn in January, the divorce from Catherine of Aragon was not declared until May. If one strips the Henrician reformation and the hard-won consent to it of their hindsight-driven illusion of inevitability, it becomes possible to read Heywood's plays as political interventions in these months of uncertainty.

One factor that perhaps contributes to a depoliticizing reading of Heywood's plays is that they are structured, generally, as unresolved (and even unresolvable) debates.14 The plays participate in a humanist intellectual culture in which "arguing both sides of the question was frequently employed as a method of political inquiry and (not infrequently) of political hedging; it appears as a mode of theological speculation and even of scientific investigation."15 Such argumentation in utramque partem, which became a staple of Tudor pedagogy, can potentially disrupt the production and interpretation of meaning. Richard Halpern describes it as "a practice that tended to promote eloquence at the cost of dissolving conviction"16-a phrase not dissimilar to the view of Heywood as a writer "in whom the controversialist seems to have been submerged in the entertainer."17 However, rhetorical games are not necessarily devoid of political and social meaning. Jody Enders has noted that many medieval plays are, in large measure, extensions of the dramatic possibilities of legal rhetoric: they "dramatize the rhetoric of judgment."18 Heywood's plays up the ante by problematizing judgment itself: good and bad arguments are so evenly distributed among the debaters that the plays raise the question of whether anyone can, or should, judge in favor of one character.

Along the same lines, the plays consistently undermine, through the use of literary allusions, their characters' claims to sound judgment, interpretive authority, and political mastery. This rhetoric of allusion "[depends] upon what might be thought of as a collective pedagogical and literary memory between author and reader" and therefore tends toward an interpretive practice which is textual and non-individualistic.19 The plays work within what Seth Lerer calls "a distinctively medieval literary theory" which treats "the production and reception of texts as part of a shared communal process."20 They therefore avoid endorsing private interpretive authority, even that of their own readers. Importantly, the comprehensibility of Heywood's allusions is not limited to an elite of fit readers; Heywood makes use of commonly known texts such as The Canterbury Tales, Piers Plowman, and cycle drama.21 The use of debate and literary allusion in Heywood's plays is not a coded evasion of censorship, comprehensible only to a few, but a political rhetoric which fosters, in readers, an anti-absolutist hermeneutic.22

Heywood's investment in hermeneutic problems can be read as both a sign and a consequence of the plays' political moment. Some of the key political and religious battles in England in the early 1530s were fought over textual interpretation-over meaning and the authority to decide meaning. Scriptural interpretation was obviously a major point of contention between Catholic and Protestant controversialists, especially since Protestants, to varying degrees, rejected the Catholic structure of interpretive apparatus (such as glosses, commentaries, and for lay people, priests) in favor of largely unmediated private interpretation of the scriptural text. Such questions not infrequently entered the political realm, as in the two conflicting biblical texts (one forbidding and one encouraging a man's marriage to his brother's widow) which were central to the royal divorce.23 The king's desire for a divorce was phrased as a scruple of conscience-that is, as a consequence of the king's own scriptural interpretation. The entire Henrician centralization may in fact be seen as an assertion of unhindered royal judgment. To promote, as Heywood does, a hermeneutic based in textual and collective tradition, skeptical of individual interpretation, is to fundamentally oppose this centralization.

Interpretation is at the heart of The Pardoner and the Frere, which centers on competitive speech and the problems of interpretation it engenders. Each of the two title characters tries to sell his own particular brand of salvation to the assembled crowd (the reader, or in performance, the theatrical audience). Their competition for the hearers' attention becomes increasingly hostile and finally degenerates into a fight. At this point the Parson enters, and we learn that the whole spectacle is occurring inside a church. The Parson summons Neybour Prat to help him take the Pardoner and Frere off to the stocks, but the two rogues pummel them and escape together, temporarily united.

The Pardoner and the Frere occupy what might be called the extreme edge of the debate form. The two characters speak simultaneously to the audience, each ferociously attempting to silence the other and monopolize the audience's attention. An unusually full stage direction emphasizes that the speeches are performed simultaneously: "Now shall the Frere begyn his sermon, and evyn at the same tyme the Pardoner begynneth also to shew and speke of his bullys, and auctorytes com from Rome" (betw. 188-89).24 In addition, the speeches are printed as close to simultaneously as possible-that is, in alternating lines.25 Even on the page, the effect is confusing. In performance, the audience would have to work hard to interpret a rapidly-moving and chaotic flood of speech. The play's most recent editors note that "experiment has shown that the audience can follow both speeches at the same time quite successfully."26 What is significant, though, is the amount of effort this requires of the audience members or readers. They must construct meaning in a very basic way. Without close attention, the whole play would fall apart into nonsense.

And the interpretive stakes are high. The audience or readers, as the congregation for whose contributions the Pardoner and the Frere are competing, must sort out not merely speeches but conflicting theological arguments. According to both speakers, the audience's very salvation is at stake. The Pardoner claims, "pardons is the thynge that bryngeth man to heven," while the Frere insists that "ye may preserve your soules helthe" only by giving alms to friars (377, 506). Since each competitor claims to provide the only route to heaven, the audience's interpretive task is serious indeed.

Religious controversy runs deep in Pardoner. The play is similar in language and tone to More's polemics, notably the Dialogue Concerning Heresies and the Confutation of Tyndale's Answer.27 There are also striking similarities between the Frere's speeches and Protestant religious language current in the early sixteenth century, notably his use of the term "electe" and his claim to authority through "the worde," which is directly opposed to the Pardoner's citation of papal authority.28 The interpretive position of a reader of Pardoner thus exactly parallels that of anyone paying attention to the ongoing religious and political controversies of 1533: pushed not only to sort out conflicting arguments, but to select the appropriate interpretive authority -to decide how, and on what grounds, to decide.

The play controls such interpretation through a manipulation of its own borrowings from The Canterbury Tales.29 Over fifty lines of the Pardoner's first speech are lifted almost verbatim from The Pardoner's Prologue, in which Chaucer's Pardoner openly admits his hypocrisy, self-interest, and rhetorical manipulation. Heywood's Pardoner must inevitably be read as implicated in that same admission.30 In 1533, such use of Chaucer is, from a conservative standpoint, rhetorically and politically risky. Chaucer's Pardoner (and other Chaucerian anticlerical satire) had by that time been assimilated into a specifically Protestant anticlericalism. For example, the Lutheran spokesman in More's Dialogue Concerning Heresies says of relics that "a bone [may be] worshypped for a relyke of some holy saynt that was peraduenture a bone as Chaucer saythe of some holy lewes shepe."31 Radical polemics were added to the Chaucer canon in the reformation years. The printer William Thynne apparently tried to include the Wycliffite, pseudoChaucerian Pilgrim's Tale in his 1532 edition of Chaucer, but was prevented by official intervention from doing so 32 The similar but better known Plowman's Tale was printed separately in 1533 by Thomas Godfray and found its way into Thynne's second edition of Chaucer in 1542.33 Is The Pardoner and the Frere, then, indulging in Chaucerian anticlericalism at a time when such satire could easily have given further ammunition to reformers?34

I would argue that the play closes off the openings for its own reformist appropriation, and indeed may be read as a critique of the Protestant use of literary anticlerical satire. It accomplishes this by implicating the Lutheran Frere in the same anticlerical tradition as the Pardoner. Although The Pardoner's Prologue from The Canterbury Tales goes to Heywood's Pardoner, his sermon on the theme "Radix malorum est Cupiditas" (VI.334) goes to the Frere.35 The Frere's sermon is not a direct borrowing, but the verbal and thematic echoes (with an overlay of reformist vernacularization) are quite obvious:

Date et dabitur vobis Good devout people, this place of scrypture Is to you that have no litteratureIs to say in our englyshe tongeAs "due your goodes the p amonge" And God shall than gyve unto you agayne: This in the gospell so is ryten playne. Therfore gyve your almes in the largest wyse; Kepe not your goodes-fye, fye on covetyse!

(189-204 )36

The final line of this speech is a clear allusion to "Ware yow fro the synne of avarice!" in The Pardoner's Tale (VI.905). The Frere goes on to demonstrate that the "poorefolke" needing alms are in fact friars. Chaucer's Pardoner's practice is almost identical:

Of avarice and of swich cursednesse Is al my preching, for to make hem free To yeven hir pens, and namely unto me. (VI-400-2)37

It is impossible, therefore, to read Heywood's Frere as in any way superior to his opponent the Pardoner. Any distinction between the two ecclesiastical competitors is dissolved in their clear derivation from a single literary source. The reader, recognizing the Chaucerian echoes in both, is invited to interpret the Pardoner and the Frere as competing forms of the same abuse.

In addition, Pardoner both demonstrates and discredits the appropriation of literary (especially Chaucerian) anticlericalism by Protestant controversialists. The play puts anticlerical attacks, which at first appear conventional, into the mouth of the Frere, who uses them against the Pardoner:

What? Sholde ye gyve ought to pratyng pardoners? What? Sholde ye gyve ought to these bolde beggars? Let them hardely labour for theyr lyvynge: It moche hurtyth them, good mennys gyvynge, For that maketh them ydle and slouthfull to warke, That for none other thynge they wyll carke. Hardely, they wolde go bothe to plow and carte And if of necessitie ones they felte the smarte.


The Frere's words here echo the largely orthodox, if pugnacious, critiques of Piers Plowman, such as the warning to buyers of pardons that "[ye] gyven [youre] gold glotons to helpe, / And leneth it losels that leccherie haunten!" (Prologue 76-77) and the attack by Hunger on idle workers during the plowing of the half-acre (6.171-329).39 However, it also recalls Wycliffite heretical writings which themselves drew on Piers Plowman. Such Lollard texts show the gradual broadening and radicalization of anticlerical complaint. (Many of these texts, significantly, are at least partly directed at friars-the Frere, once again, participates in the very abuse he condemns.) A Lollard sermon on mendicancy which circulated from the early fifteenth to the early sixteenth century states that mendicants should follow the example of St. Paul, who "notwipstondinge Pat he was a prest and apostle, wrou3te and gate lijflood for himsilf and opir with hise owne hondis, and tau3te Pat he that trauelide not shulde not ete, and blamede Po that hadde leiser to trauele and wolde not."40 Similarly, The Plowman's Tale ironically notes that churchmen "forsake for Christes loue / Trauelye/ hungre/ thurst/ and colde" (421-22).41 Pierce the Ploughmans Crede attacks the idleness of friars:

Pei vsen russet also somme of Pis freres, Pat bitokneth trauaile & trewthe opon erthe; Bote Joke whou Pis lorels labouren the erthe, But freten the frute that the folk full lellich biswynketh.


By the sixteenth century, reformation polemic expands Lollard condemnations of clerical idleness into attacks on Catholic structures and doctrines.43 Tyndale, for example, equates offerings, the purchase of pardons, and official church appropriations such as tithes when he sardonically states, "The person shereth the vicare shaveth / the perish prest polleth / the frere scrapeth and the perdoner pareth we lacke but a bocher to pole of the skynne."44 A Supplicacyon for the Beggers, which appeared only a few years before Pardoner, aims for comprehensiveness in its attack on the acquisitiveness of "Bisshoppes, Abbottes, Priours, Deacons, Archedeacons, Suffraganes, Prestes, Monkes, Chanons, Freres, Pardoners and Somners."45 Like Protestant polemicists, the Frere turns conventional complaint into radicalism, attacks on abuses into schism. For example, the Frere is unmoved by the Pardoner's attempts to invoke papal authority for his speech. In fact, he interjects, "By gogges soule, knave, I suffre the no lenger!" (531). At one point, the Frere quite explicitly rejects papal authority, describing the Pardoner's bulls and pardons as "ragman ropes with lyes" (553).

Even when the play seems to make full use of anticlerical satire, it distances its own anticlericalism from radical Protestant critiques, which are portrayed as chaotic and dangerous. For example, amid the Pardoner's long list of "relics," largely borrowed from The Canterbury Tales, is one (apparently original to Heywood) which encodes an attack on All Hallows' Church in Honey Lane, London, a notorious center for Protestant preaching:46

Here is another relyke, eke a precyous one: Of All Helowes the blessyd jaw bone, Which relyke without any fayle Agaynst poyson chefely dothe prevayle; For whom so ever it toucheth, without dout, All maner venym from hym shall issue out, So that it shall hurt no maner wyghte.


An anti-Protestant joke-venom issues from anyone touched by the power of All Hallows-is embedded within an extremely common trope of anticlerical satire (and one often appropriated by Protestant writers). The Frere, when he attacks the Pardoner and his relics, becomes the speaker of poison. Therefore, the play's use of anticlerical literature against both characters never fully authorizes the Frere's Protestant use of it.

Heywood thus carefully attempts to forestall any appropriation of the critiques of Pardoner by the Protestant polemicists of 1533. The play enacts and condemns such appropriation within its own text. In the process, it makes an implicit distinction between acceptable critiques of the church (presumably including the orthodox reformism of the More circle) and Protestant dissent. The Lutheran Frere is not a reformer, but another and perhaps more dangerous kind of abuser seeking mastery. Importantly, towards the end of the play the reader is briefly given a glimpse of acceptable and non-controversial religious practice in the form of the local Parson whose church the Pardoner and the Frere have invaded. The Parson sorts through the controversy unhesitatingly, condemning both.

A vengeaunce on ye bothe two, That ever ye came hyther to make this a do, To polute my chyrche-a myschyefe on you lyght!


His judgment confirms the play's rhetorical condemnation of both traditional abuses and heretical reform. The Parson's strong and impartial rejection of the Pardoner and the Frere also recalls the practice of Chaucer's Parson, the "good man ... of religioun," who, if he encountered "any persone obstinat, / What so he were, of heigh or lough estat, / Hym wolde he snybben sharply" (I.477, 521-23). Nevertheless, Heywood's Parson proves unequal to the job of quelling religious controversy. Although he calls in Neybour Prat to help him "punysh such to the ensample / Of suche other [would-be controversialists]," the Pardoner and Frere join forces to defeat them and escape (589-go). In the dispute between two forms of religious abuse, it is the church and local order that suffer.

In The Pardoner and the Frere, readers are presented not solely with a merry entertainment, but with a condensed version of the religious disputes of the early 1530s. They are left to sort out a cacophony of competing (and equally problematic) claims, and like the Parson and Neybour Prat, they do so at their own risk. It is possible to read the play, as does Greg Walker, as calling for abuses and heresy to be "resolutely and effectively suppressed" by the state: the Parson and Prat might have succeeded with more help.47 However, the play's chaotic verbal structure (and consequent difficulty for the reader) and its rejection of the Frere's scriptural Protestantism suggest an anxiety about lay interpretive authority, including that of the secular powers: The play grants the Parson alone the ability to decisively intervene. His failure emphasizes the chaotic potential of public religious controversy.

The Foure PP offers a more benign and hopeful, yet ultimately even more conservative, variation on the same theme.49 In the play's opening pages, a Palmer, a Pardoner, and a Potycary begin an argument about the best way to salvation, with each arguing for the special utility of his own professional skills. A Pedler then enters and is invited to judge "Whiche of us thre shall take the best place?" (381). The Pedler refuses to judge such a serious question and instead proposes a lying contest, for which he notes all four are well qualified. The Potycary and the Pardoner each tell tales of professional accomplishment, but the Palmer wins the contest with a casual comment praising the patience and good nature of women. The Palmer, in order to keep the peace, relinquishes his prize of mastery over the two losers. The play then concludes with speeches in favor of mutual tolerance and obedience to the church.

The play emphasizes the social necessity, and indeed the virtue, of deferred judgment. Like Pardoner, The Foure PP works through Chaucerian antecedents-in this case, a mixing of "earnest" and "game" in the manner of The Canterbury Tales, with game invoked whenever the debate becomes too potentially divisive. Significantly, game in The Canterbury Tales promotes both social and religious order on the road to Canterbury. For example, a quasi-eucharistic gift of wine (praised because it "so [can] turnen ernest into game" [IX.zoo]) in The Manciple's Prologue makes up for the Manciple's offense-causing joke to the cook and helps to firmly unite the company in time for the Parson's concluding sermon. The sermon itself links earnest and game by allegorizing the merry Canterbury pilgrims as spiritual pilgrims on "the righte wey of Jerusalem celestial" (X.79).50 Thus, the good humor and jokes of The Foure PP can themselves be read as a gesture in favor of orthodoxy and the reduction of controversy.

The salvation argument central to The Foure PP is, of course, strikingly similar to that of The Pardoner and the Frere. And once again, the argument relates to the religious controversies of the 1530s -notably to disputes over pilgrimages and relics. The Palmer has visited a number of controversial sites scorned by reformers and Protestants, such as "Saynt Toncomber and Saynt Tronion" (31), while the Pardoner's relics include items as dubious as the "buttocke bone of Pentecoste" (521). The skeptics' response to such things is put into the mouth of the Potycary, who tells the Pardoner that

[T]he relykes [are] no ryches to me Nor to thy selfe, excepte they be More benefycyall then I can se.


The Potycary, however, is clearly a scoffer and no voice of godly reform. During the Pedler's speech, late in the play, on the dangers of dispraising one virtue in favor of another, he interjects, "For fere lest suche parels to me myght fall, / I thanke God I use no venue at all" (1187-88). By the end of the play, as I will discuss below, all the Potycary's criticisms are rejected.

The intensity of the salvation debate in Pardoner is never reached in The Foure PP, however. Instead, the debate quickly turns ludicrous. The Potycary, in defense of his claim to mastery, reduces salvation to its lowest common denominator, bodily death:

No soule, ye knowe, entreth heven gate Tyll from the bodye he be separate. And whome have ye knowen dye honestlye Without helpe of the potycary?

If a thousande pardons about your neckes were teyd, When come they to heven yf they never dyed?


In this comic reversal, an incompetent apothecary becomes more spiritually useful than pilgrimages or pardons.

The Pedler, as judge of the three competitors, turns the dispute itself into game. He refuses to judge on the salvation question, since "It behoveth no pedlers nor proctours / To take on them judgemente as doctours" (386-87)-an explicit statement of the same rejection of both Protestant dissent and the royal supremacy that was implicit in Pardoner. Such a statement is, of course, a controversial gesture in its own right. More's Apology (printed, like Heywood's plays, by William Rastell in 1533) uses similar terms to attack the arrogance of Protestants like Tyndale: "it was an heyghnouse presumpcyon of one man, vppon the truste of his owne wyt, to geue the people corage and boldenesse to resyste theyre prynce and disobey theyr prelates."" However, the Pedler's words also recall one of More's non-controversial works, the early poem "A Mery Gest How a Sergeaunt Wolde Lerne to Be a Frere." In this poem, if "a pedler, / Waxe a medlar, / In theology," the result is only the peddler's humiliating failure in his new career (54-56).52 These two allusions suggest the trajectory of the play as a whole: the transformation of the controversial into the comic. Thus the Pedler's alternative to the salvation debate, his proposed lying contest, can be read as a further comic inversion, this time of religious controversy itself. The possibilities of error and chaos which lurk threateningly in Pardoner are here tamed, since the lies are transparent and acknowledged.

The first two lies, by the Potycary and the Pardoner, retain aspects of the salvation debate which opened the play, since they are boasts of professional accomplishment. The Potycary tells a scatological tale of a "miraculous" cure he performed, while the Pardoner's lie describes seeking out his dead friend Margery's soul, first in purgatory and then in hell, and finally freeing her from hell. Besides its obvious connections to the sort of anticlerical literature mentioned above (such as Jack Upland, which accuses friars of claiming that a trental "may brynge a soule out of helle or of purgatorie" [161-621),53 the Pardoner's lie also specifically recalls lines in Skelton's "Collyn Clout" on boasting friars who claim "thei are sacerdotes / To shryve, assoyle, and to reles / Dame Margeres soule out of hell" (874-76).54 Like the boasting friars who usurp priestly offices, the Pardoner claims competence far beyond his authority. However, the "game" aspect of the Pardoner's claim (that is, its explicit positioning as a lie) always modifies its element of anticlerical satire. Indeed, Edwin Shepard Miller argues that part of the humor of the Pardoner's lie depends on the audience's knowledge of its impossibility, since pardons apply only to purgatory and "indulgence cannot affect hell."55 The Pardoner acknowledges this impossibility even in the midst of his own lie, stating that in hell he acts "[n]at.. by outhorite, / But by the waye of entreate" (821-22). It is only in purgatory that the Pardoner acts "by outhorite." When one of the imprisoned souls blesses him after a sneeze, the Pardoner uses his authority to reward him:

"Those wordes," quoth I, "thou shalt nat lees." Then, with these pardons of all degrees, I payed his tole and set hym so quyght That strayt to heven he toke his flyght.


The Pardoner's unexpectedly benign generosity here suggests Heywood's reluctance to mock the effectiveness of prayers and other intercessions on behalf of the dead -notions which, along with the very existence of purgatory, were coming under Protestant attack 56 As in The Pardoner and the Frere, Heywood is simultaneously using reformist commonplaces and heading off their more Protestant interpretations. Since the Pardoner makes no real claim that pardons can save the damned, a serious accusation against the use of indulgences is turned into mere game.

The fact that the elaborate professional lies of the Potycary and the Pardoner lose the contest further defers judgment in the salvation debate. The prize is won by the Palmer's possibly sincere comment that women, in his experience, are not as bad as the Pardoner's lie (in which the devils are eager to get rid of Margery, and ask the Pardoner to try harder, in future, to keep women out of hell) has painted them: "I never sawe or knewe, to my consyens, / Any one woman out of paciens," the Palmer says (1002-3). The others immediately proclaim this to be the greatest lie they have ever heard. According to Kent Cartwright, the Palmer's comment, with its uncertain sincerity, culminates the play's process of undermining interpretive certainty: "The Foure PP raises at a critical juncture the horror and delight of secular drama: no ideology (no 'authority'), beyond an equivocal misogyny, capable of settling meanings."57 This argument, I think, mistakes both the play's queasiness about settled meanings and its deliberate use of "game" as a strategy of stability. Harmony is reestablished among the four characters through a turn to misogynistic humor." Serious competition among men is transformed into game and turned outward against women. It may be significant that the misogynistic discourse the play invokes is, though commonplace, often associated with clerics. Chaucer's Wife of Bath, for example, links misogyny to the requirement of clerical celibacy:

For trusteth wel, it is an impossible That any derk wol speke good of wyves, But if it be of hooly seintes lyves, Ne of noon oother worman never the mo. Who peyntede the leon, tel me who?


Thus the winning lie in The Foure PP can be seen as utilizing a specifically clerical misogyny, a social by-product of orthodox celibacy, in order to mend the social breaks caused by religious competition and dispute. Unlike salvation, female devilishness is self-evident, neither requiring nor subject to real debate. Misogyny permits order without requiring a solution (which none of the four is qualified to provide) to the play's salvational competition.

The play's deferral of religious judgment does not, however, mean it is devoid of pointed satire. The satiric edge of The Foure PP is instead turned, briefly but crucially, against royal authority. The Pardoner arrives in hell during the elaborate celebrations of the anniversary of Lucifer's fall. The well-dressed, tennis-playing devils are almost certainly a parody of the royal court. 59 Furthermore, the language of the safe-conduct granted to the Pardoner mimics that of royal letters patent:60

Lucyfere, By the power of God chyefe devyll of hell, To all the de yls ftt that here do dwell And every of them, we senile gretynge,

Gervyn in the fornes of our palys, In our bye courte of staters of malys, Suche a day and yere of our reyne.

(852-55 865-67)

Lucifer is, literally, king of hell. Importantly, Heywood's mock-royal language here also recalls that of Lady Mede's charter in Piers Plowman, with its closing formula "In the date of the devel this deed is asseled" (2.113). The charter grants Mede and her eventual husband lordship of the seven deadly sins, and they and their heirs are to have "a dwellynge with the devel, and dampned be for evere" (2.103). However, while both texts link worldly abundance, whether "mede" or courtly pleasures, to damnation, in Piers Plowman the king remains free of corruption and brings Mede somewhat under control. In The Foure PP, the royal and the devil's court are identical. The connection to Mede's charter gives a sinister edge to Heywood's rather urbane hell, and Heywood turns Piers Plowman's praise of royal justice into potential condemnation. Heywood's condemnation goes beyond conventional attacks on luxury and idleness, however. The safe-conduct's echoes of letters patent connect it to the question of royal ecclesiastical authority, which was exercised (even before the supremacy) primarily through letters patent. The first clear step toward a break with Rome, the 1532 Acts of Annates, was written so as to be inactive until confirmed "by [the king's] lettres patentys under his great Seale." 11 Hence, Lucifer's safe-conduct may be read as a stridently critical comment on the supremacy. Lucifer, after all, fell because he tried to usurp divine power. The Pedler's earlier point about religious judgment by peddlers and proctors is here extended, in much more "earnest" fashion, to kings.

The question of interpretive authority resurfaces at the close of The Foure PP when the Pedler, despite his previous refusal to judge serious questions, says, "Yet in the debate wherwith ye began, / By waye of advyse I wyll speke as I can" (1139-40). Both Palmer and Pardoner, he declares, are capable of doing God's work, provided they act with good intentions:

For though ye walks nat bothe one ways, Yet walkynge ties thys dare I says: That bothe your wa!kes come to one ends.


Therefore, they should not disparage one another. This commonplace has, once again, distinct Chaucerian echoes, this time to the opening of The Parson's Tale: "Manye been the wayes espirituels that leden folk to oure Lord Jhesu Crist and to the regne of glorie," notes the Parson (X.78). Just before the tale begins, the contentious pilgrims at last make themselves into a unified audience:

[We] had an sed soone, For, as it seemed, it was for to dooneTo enden in sam vertuousus sente.


The Foure PP's allusion to the end of The Canterbury Tales suggests both the dangers of a competition for mastery and the spiritual possibilities of harmonious coexistence. The play ends with a speech by the Palmer hoping that God will "prosper you all / In the faythe of hys churche universall" (1233-34).

Superficially, the Pedler's intervention seems like exactly the authoritative judgment in religious questions he has previously disavowed. However, the Pedler offers advice "as I can" rather than a definitive solution. Most importantly, the solution that the Pedler advises is a deferral, even a refusal, of private judgment. This, he tells the Potycary in reference to pardons and relics, is preferable even to the charitable judgment of "belvynge the best" where possible (1208):

But beste in these thynges it semeth to me, To make no judgement upon ye. But as the churche doth judge or take them, So do ye receyve or forsake them. And so be sure ye can nat erre, But may be a frutfull folower.


It is this argument that finally convinces all the others and allows for the Palmer's ending blessing and invocation of the universal church. Crucially, it echoes the orthodox position More asserts in the Dialogue Concerning Heresies that "it best becometh a lay man . in all thyngys [to] lene and cleue to the comen fayth and byleue of crystys chyrche" (37). When The Foure PP invokes authority at this moment, it is not the private interpretive authority the Pedler disavows even as he pronounces his "advyse," but the final authority of the church in religious matters. The play has already disqualified lay people, and especially the king, from judgment. Lay judgment creates disorder, competition, and arrogance (all exemplified in the play's collapse of orderliness), while trusting in the church's judgment allows one to "be a frutfull folower." Religious authority, as the play's ending makes clear, is necessary because it allows an ideal state of unity-in-diversity; it makes the coexistence of "mange ... wages espirituels" possible.62

In The Play of the Wether, royal judgment returns to center stage. The play opens with the god Jupiter having just acquired supremacy over all the other gods in meteorological matters. He descends to earth to accept petitions for the redress of the weather. Jupiter and his herald Mery Reporte (who screens the petitioners and grants godly access only to the socially elevated) hear a series of self-interested and incompatible requests: the Gentylman wants cool, still weather for hunting; the Water Myller wants rain and no wind while the Wynde Myller demands wind and no rain; the Gentylwoman wants mild, sunless weather to protect her complexion; the Launder insists on hot, sunny weather to dry her washing, and so forth. The play concludes with Jupiter's decision that everyone will have a little of the weather he or she desires (in other words, that the status quo will be unchanged). Jupiter's wisdom is praised by all the petitioners, and he reascends to his heavenly throne.

The play's political aspects are unmistakable, given the Henrician literary convention of comparing the king to Jupiter. The critical consensus is that "Wether is first of all a compliment to Henry VIII, a strong argument for Henry's complete control of the government, and a plea for social solidarity under his direction on the part of the entire nation."63 Thus the play is typically read as a statement of a paradoxical absolutism in which the decisive sovereign's careful inaction is necessary to maintain harmony. However, Richard Axton and Peter Happe argue convincingly for reading the play as satire-as a mocking comment, in the context of the supremacy controversy, on Henry VIII's new religious authority and the political turmoil of the Reformation Parliament.' This skeptical reading can usefully be carried a good deal further. As I will demonstrate, the play questions both the efficacy and the desirability of absolutist royal judgment.

William Tyndale, in the 1528 Obedience of a Christen Man, claims that rulers "are called Gods in the scriptures because thei are in Gods rowme and execute ye commaundmentes of God" (3or). The Play of the Wether literalizes this Protestant plea for royal self-assertion. It portrays a ruler who is truly God on earth, with potentially disastrous consequences. The play's weather plot, far from being trivial, serves as a metaphor for social, political, and religious interdependence and the necessity of balance. It quickly becomes clear (as my summary, above, of the petitions shows) that the exercise of Jupiter's authority in favor of any of the petitioners would bring both meteorological and social ruin. The play's "debate," expressed through the petitions, is one that should not be resolved.

Of course, not resolving the debate is exactly what Jupiter does. However, Jupiter's brand of passive absolutism is not left unquestioned. One variety of questioning is explicit within the play. When the god has announced his decision (and been effusively praised by all the petitioners), the herald Mery Reporte adds ironically, "God thanke your lordship. Lo, how this is brought to pas! / Syrs, now shall ye have the wether even as it was" (1239-40). Although Mery Reporte, described in the list of players as "the vyce," resembles the vice figures of morality plays,65 his words here have more weight than the always disavowed speech of the moralities' vices. Mery Reporte is "reporte"- speech, rumor, the public voice.66 His status as the speaker of public skepticism is emphasized by his first appearance, in which he emerges from the audience after Jupiter announces that he needs a "cryer" (97). Mery Reporte's deflation of Jupiter's triumph amplifies the potentially sympathetic aspect of vice figures and encourages the reader to collude with his mocking "reporte."

In one key moment of the play, Mery Reporte takes on the idea of "headship," a particularly charged notion in 1533. A claim to headship is voiced not by Jupiter but by the Gentylman petitioner, who argues that gentlemen deserve preferential treatment because they are "the weale and heddes of al comen welth" (296). Mery Reporte undermines this claim by the simple means of taking it literally; he treats the Gentylman as a second, quite corporeal, head. He announces his delight in possessing an extra head for his overflow of "fansyes," and declares that now, "I can set my hedde and my tayle to gyther," probably accompanying this comment with a physical demonstration, resting his "tayle" against his "hedde," the Gentylman (301, 310). When the Gentylman exits, Mery Reporte cries out, "Alas, my necke, goddes pyty, where is my hed? / By Saynt Yve, I feare me I shall be ded!" (325-26). It is not simply the conventional metaphor of the body politic that Mery Reporte mocks here. The linguistic connection between the Gentylman's claim to be head of the commonwealth and the language of the royal supremacy (such as the prologue to the Act in Restraint of Appeals, which claims that all authority in England belongs to "oon Supreme heede and King" 67) is strong.

Nevertheless, it would be an oversimplification to read Mery Reporte only as the voice of opposition to the royal supremacy, whether as the spokesman of conservative resistance or (like the anonymous servants A and B in Medwall's Fulgens and Lucres, who similarly emerge from the crowd) as the commonsense voice of ordinary skepticism. Much as Mery Reporte parodies the notion of headship, his anarchic, universal mockery is by no means focused on such issues. Nor does he propose a conservative counterversion of authority. Mery Reporte's "persistent, questioning refrain," like the cynicism of the Potycary in The Foure PP, has a dangerously destabilizing potential.68 Mery Reporte rejects authority and decorum in virtually all their forms, aligning himself again with vice figures and, to that extent, undermining his own critiques.

Furthermore, Mery Reporte's near-constant mockery fails to drown out the play's seemingly authoritative judgment. The play ends with over fifty lines in praise of Jupiter's transcendent wisdom, from all the petitioners and from Jupiter himself. This is interrupted, as noted above, by Mery Reporte's acidic comment that the weather will stay "even as it was"; nevertheless, Jupiter has the last word:

Also we woll all ye that on yerth sojourneSyns cause gyveth cause-to know us your lord onely, And now here to synge moste joyfully, Rejoycynge in us; and in meane tyme we shall Ascende into our trone celestyall.


Like The Foure PP, Wether ends with the restoration of order and a turn toward the spiritual. Given the grave religious changes which, by 1533, Henry VIII was clearly contemplating, the possibility emerges that Heywood's mockery of kingship is in fact perfectly serious: the best king really is the one who changes nothing. Absolute authority, in this reading, is harmless in the hands of a benevolent king. We are, apparently, back where we began: Wether as praise (faint praise, admittedly) of the careful exercise of absolute power.

The weakness of such a pro-absolutist interpretation, however, is the benign construction placed on Jupiter's divine status and his assumption of absolute authority -the only things allowing him to (not) change the weather in the first place.69 A more critical reading of Jupiter's divinity brings out its rhetorical positioning within a strikingly negative set of textual references.70 It recalls the pseudo-divinity of the kings and pretenders - Herod, Pilate, even Lucifer and Antichrist 71 - of the cycle plays.72 Read in this way, Jupiter's divinity becomes the play's most satirical, rather than its most complimentary, aspect.73

Even the play's seemingly innocent meteorological plot contains associations with the cycle drama tyrants. In the York cycle and the fragmentary Coventry cycle, Herod claims to control the weather. As Herod puts it in the Coventry Shearman and Taylors' play,

I am the cawse of this grett lyght and thunder; Ytt ys throgh my fore that the soche noyse dothe make. My feyrefull contenance the clowdis so doth incumbur That oftymis for drede they-of the verre yerth doth quake.


Jupiter's resemblance to the York Herod is even stronger, because this Herod mingles his claims of weather-controlling prowess with an assertion of his authority over classical gods: he mentions "Saturne my subgett" and "Jubiter and Jouis, Martis and Mercurij" as being in his power (16.5, 16.2)?. In Wether, Jupiter similarly announces his superiority, in this case to "Saturne, and Phebus, / Eolus and Phebe" (29-30). Such detailed resemblances to Herod make Jupiter suspect from the beginning.

Jupiter's boastful language, his insistence on his own divine authority, increases the doubtfulness of his status. In Jupiter's long opening monologue, he discusses in glowing terms his attainment of supremacy over the other gods:

For above all goddes sync our fathers fale We Jupiter were ever pryncypale. If we so have ben as treuth yt is in dede Beyond the compas of all comparyson, Who could presume to shew for any mede So that yt myght appere to humayne reason The hye renowme we stande in at this season? For syns that heven and erth were fyrste create Stode we never in suche tryumphaunt estate.


Later, Jupiter instructs the audience to "Rejoyce ye in us wyth joy most joyfully, / And we our selfe shall joy in our owne glory" (184-85). Not coincidentally, Jupiter's language here echoes that of supremacy legislation, notably the prologue to the Act in Restraint of Appeals, which claims that the king possesses "plenarie hoole and inhere power preemynence auctoritie prerogatyve and jurisdiccion."76 It also resembles Lucifer's boasting before the Fall of the Angels in the cycle plays. In the Chester play, for example, Lucifer seats himself on God's throne and demands acknowledgement from the other angels:

Here will I sitt owe in his steade, to exaulte myselfe utt this same see. Behoulde my bodye, bandes and headthe mighte of God is marked in mee. All angelis, tome to me I read, and to your soveraigne kneels one your knee. l ame your comforte, booth lade and head, the meirth and might of the majestye.


Such textual references cast Jupiter's supremacy, and Henry's, as a usurpation. Wether daringly expands the covert identification of the king with Lucifer in The Foure PP, suggesting a king about to fall from his exalted role of Defender of the Faith through an ungodly rebellion.

It must be noted, though, that the language of God the Father in the cycles is not always easily distinguishable from that of usurpers such as Lucifer. God opens the first Chester pageant with a monologue in which he asserts his power in almost boastful fashion:

I ame greate God gracious, which never had begyninge

My beames be all beawtitude; all blisse is in my buyldinge.

Prince principall, proved in my perpetuall provydence,

For all the likeinge in this lordshipp be laude to my laudacion. Through might of my most mejestie your meirth shall ever be mendinge. (1.5-6; 14-15; 22-23; 48-51)

Similarly, in the Towneley cycle, God describes himself as "Gone God in mageste; / Meruelus, of myght most" (1.3-4).78 And in the N-Town cycle, God's first line is "My name is knowyn, God and kynge" (1.i).79 Such godly arrogance might seem to support Greg Walker's conclusion that it is God the Father whom Jupiter echoes.80

However, there are key differences in the cycles between God the Father and Lucifer. As V. A. Kolve succinctly puts it, "Lucifer ... fell because he imitated God."81 While God possesses power, indeed is power, Lucifer and other usurpers aggressively seek and mimic such power, in action and language. This imitation is particularly clear in the York Fall of the Angels. The play opens with a typical statement by God of his own power:

I am gracyus and grete, God withoutyn begynnyng. I am maker unmade, all mighte es in me; I am lyfe and way unto welth-wynnyng, I am formaste and fyrste, als I byd Ball it be.


The next speaker is a seraph, who, appropriately, praises his creator: "A, mercyfull maker, full mekill es Pi mighte" (1.41). The seraph is followed by "Angelus Deficiens, Lucifer," who signals his status as rebellious, as "deficiens," by praising himself rather than God:

All the myrth Pat es made es markide in me! be bernes of my brighthode are byrnande so bryghte, And I so semely in syghte myself now I se, For lyke a lorde am I lefte to lende in Pis lighte.


Lucifer's imitation of godly speech is clear. Similarly, in the Chester creation play, God states that "all the meirth of the majestye / is magnifyed in me"; a hundred and seventy lines later, Lucifer, seated in God's throne, claims to be "the meirth and might of the majestye" (20-21; 193).

Lucifer's slightly altered repetition of God's words suggests the nature of his usurpation: like a flawed mirror, he reflects divine power, but badly.

Heywood's Jupiter is not imitative in the exact manner of the cycle Lucifers-his is the first speech in the play, and its divine rhetoric is not borrowed from another character within Wether. However, another form of imitativeness emerges on closer examination. Crucially, God in the cycle plays emphasizes his own singularity and permanence: the York God, as we have seen, is "maker unmade" and "formaste and fyrste" (1.2, 1.4). Jupiter, by contrast, is neither first nor unmade, and has only recently become foremost. He reigns "above all goddes syns our fathers fale" and notes that "syns that heven and erth were fyrste create / Stode we never in suche tryumphaunt estate" (6.13-14). His assumption of "tryumphaunt estate" depended upon the submission of the other gods, who surrendered power to him only after a near civil war in heaven (22-70). Jupiter, who inherits (indeed, within the mythological tradition, usurps) power from his father; who is subject to time and change; who must involve himself in political deals with other gods -this Jupiter resembles not the omnipotent God of medieval drama, but an earthly king.

The determining factor in the imitativeness of the cycle Lucifers and tyrants is, finally, audience knowledge: we know that they are not God. Heywood similarly seems to rely on the reader's knowledge to fill in the gaps of an arrogant imitativeness which is only partially made explicit in the play. First, any reader would likely be familiar with the longstanding Christian exegetical traditions identifying Greek and Roman gods as, at best, typological precursors of the true God and, at worst, demonic "false gods." Second, there is the reader's knowledge of the play's guiding allegory: Jupiter represents an earthly king, Henry VIII; he acts, as we have seen, like an earthly king; he is not God, and his divine pretensions are, like Lucifer's, dangerous.

Jupiter's demand for earthly as well as divine authority underscores the weather plot's association of him with tyrant figures, such as Herod and Pilate. The play grants Jupiter a vast earthly empire. Mery Reporte, summarizing his travels to proclaim Jupiter's intent to reform the weather, claims, "I have ben from hevyn as farre as heven is hens, / At Louyn, at London and in Lombardy," and continues through thirteen further lines of alliterative listing of places (197-98). Herod's Nuncius, in the Towneley cycle, recites a similar catalogue of the lands in which Herod's power is acknowledged, and the N-Town Satan pronounces another such list during his temptation of Jesus.82 And Jupiter demands depth, as well as breadth, of power. In his opening monologue, Jupiter informs the audience that his coming reformation of the weather "hyely shall bynde you on knees lowly bent / Soolly to honour oure hyenes day by day" (19-20). He reiterates this at the end of the play, after his decision is made, when he asks the petitioners "to know us your lord onely" (1252). Such insistence on absolute and sole sovereignty is the chief characteristic of all the tyrant figures in the cycle plays. In the Towneley cycle, for example, Herod's Nuncius informs the audience that Herod "commaundys you euerilkon / To hold no kyng bot hym alon" (14.79-80). Also in Towneley, Caesar Augustus says, "I am lord and syr ouer all; / All bowys to me, both grete and smal, / As lord of euery land" (9.19-21). The York Pilate announces that "per is no berne in Pis burgh has me aboute heuyd, / But he sekis me for souereyne, in certayne Y saie" (32.11-12). In the cycle plays, such boasting is a mark of the inappropriate extension of earthly sovereignty to spiritual matters. The tyrants, threatened by a separate spiritual sovereignty, invoke the coercive powers of earthly sovereignty, with brutal consequences: the slaughter of the innocents, the crucifixion. It is not difficult to read this resemblance as a forecast of trouble if Henry VIII pursues his claim to religious authority. Although the consequences of Jupiter's sovereignty in Wether are comic, the shadow of tyrannous potential hangs over the play. In the context of the cycle plays, Jupiter's non-decision may be read not merely as a wise choice but as an obligation-the only way to avoid fulfilling the usurping typology of Lucifer, Herod, Pilate, and eventually, Antichrist (who says, in the Chester play, "I am wall of wayle and wytt / and lord of everye land" [23.115-16]). Through these allusions, The Play of the Wether not only sharply criticizes the Henrician supremacy, it appropriates a key Protestant trope, the characterization of the pope as tyrant and antichrist. Through the cycle plays, Heywood turns this accusation back against a Protestantizing king.83

Heywood's use of the cycles in Wether is so extensive that it acquires a significance even beyond its specific intertextual critiques of the supremacy. Importantly, Jupiter is not identifiable with any single tyrant in the cycle plays: he sounds like Herod, but also like Pilate, Caesar, and Pharaoh. In the cycles (and particularly in the Towneley cycle), 14 these tyrants form an almost indistinguishable series. The pretensions of each to be lord of the world are both repetitive and futile, since the divine will, of course, triumphs. Jupiter's supremacy, then, may be read as simply another doomed attempt to usurp this spiritual lordship. Although Wether ends with Jupiter's success, the structure of the cycles implies that such victories are transitory. In the N-Town cycle, for example, Herod's celebratory feast after the slaughter of the innocents (in the mistaken belief that Jesus has been killed) is interrupted by the arrival of Death, who turns Herod over to the devil for eternal punishment (20.233-84).

It is also worth recalling the status of the cycle plays themselves in the 1530s. Henry VIII's government had begun to assert control over religious drama as early as 1515, when the Chester play of the Assumption of the Virgin was suppressed.85 In 1532, the Chester banns and proclamations were rewritten to remove references to papal authority.86 The long process of suppressing the cycles was beginning in Heywood's time.87 Wether's allusions undermine the supremacy not only in their content, but in their context, since they are drawn from a popular literary form already identified as potentially dangerous to the state and to the royal supremacy. The play sets royal interpretation and innovation against the network of dramatic, literary, theological, and communal structures in which the cycle plays participate. It casts absolutist claims, with their disruptive potential, as dangerously arrogant.

Heywood's 1533 plays are utterly engaged in their political moment -the struggle over the extent of royal authority and the separate existence of the church. While they may be called resistant texts, it would be an oversimplification to claim that the plays "resist power." What they resist, in their skepticism of absolute interpretive authority, is the increasing centralization of both political and religious power in the king's hands. They propose, instead, a strongly idealized vision of social harmony and obedience to the church. The connectin between this medieval ideal and the plays' reliance on English literary traditin is not accidental. At a moment of unprecedented breaking with the past, Heywood's plays seek a continuity between the Ricardian and the Henrician eras.88 They resist innovation and defy a historiacal narrative of progress that was emerging even in Heywood's own time,as reformers wrote their own versions of the past. Heywood's plays are acts of conservative resistance - an apparently paradoxical term which has the advantage of reminding us that the lived experience of profound religious and political change, instituted from the top down, is unlikely to be either pleasant or welcome. Raymond Williams, one of the few critics to have thought seriously about conservatism and nostalgia, has noted that the residual frequently shades into the oppositional. Importantly, however, the "medieval" religious structures Heywood champions were powerful social and political forces, not yet residual, part of a set of "certain experiences, meanings, and values, which cannot be expressed or substantially verified in terms of the dominant culture." 89 Early mosern studies is (as its name implies) perhaps too prone to reproduce this erasure of the oppositional and residual by the dominant culture.

Certainly Heywood seems to have seen his plays as political acts. In 1556, over twenty years after the plays were printed, Heywood published his long allegorical poem The Spider and the Flie. It was a time of uneasy triumph for conservatives.90 Mary Tudor's process of Catholic restoration was well under way, Cranmer (allegorized by Heywood as the Spider) had been executed, and Heywood, long Mary's supporter, was prospering.91 In the poem, which meditates on England's civil and religious strife from the 1530s onward, Heywood writes that it is "Better smooth woordes to geue: then smart stripes to take. / Namelie where stripes win nought : & wordes maie win all."92 Mary, of course, died in 1558, and Elizabeht's accession ended the brief Catholic victory. Although the resistant words of Heywood and other conservatives in the 1530s failed to "win all," they suggest the need to revise the literary history of the Henrician era, in which the battle of words is still, all too ofteh, invisible.

University of Minnesota

1 For example, Heywood is strikingly absent from Howard B. Norland's Drama in Early Tudor Britain, 1485-1558 (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1995).
2 As Peter C. Herman notes, virtually all early sixteenth-century English literature receives such treatment (introduction to Rethinking the Henrician Era: Essays on Early Tudor Texts and Contexts, ed. Peter C. Herman [Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994], i-6).

3I refer here to Ernest Renan's famous comment in "Qu'est-ce qu'une nation?": "Or l'essence d'une nation est que tous les individus aient beaucoup de choses en commun, et aussi que tous aient oublie bien des choses" ["Now, the essence of a nation is that all its individuals have many things in common, and also that they all have forgotten many things"]. Quoted in Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (London: Verso, 1991), 6. As Anderson notes, forgetting entails an active erasure, since (paradoxically) one must know what it is that needs to have been forgotten (199-210).

4 For a helpful guide to the composition and printing of controversial texts, see David Birch, Early Reformation English Polemics (Salzburg: Institut fdr Anglistik and Amerikanistik, Universitat Salzburg, 1983).
5 For useful discussions of Heywood's family and associates, see Richard Axton and Peter Happe, eds., The Plays of John Heywood (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1991), 1-10; and A. W. Reed, Early Tudor Drama: Medwall, the Rastells, Heywood, and the More Circle (London: Methuen, 1926), 29-71.
6 Or, in the exceptional case of Heywood's father-in-law John Rastell, for taking up the cause of radical Protestantism.

7 Almost nothing is known of these apparently uncontroversial plays, all of which were written significantly later than Heywood's surviving drama: "The Masque of King Arthur's Knights" for Cromwell in 1539, a play on the "Parts of Man" for Cranmer c. 1545, and an unspecified "play of children" for Edward VI at Easter 1553 (Axton and Happe, Plays, xv-xvi).
8 Among the conspirators were many of the surviving men of the More circle, including More's son John. Heywood's recantation is printed in Foxes Acts and Monuments (The Acts and Monuments of John Foxe: A New and Complete Edition, ed. Stephen Reed Cattley, 8 vols. [London, 1838], 5:528-29), and Reed briefly describes the conspiracy and its aftermath (Early Tudor Drama, 62-64). Heywood seems to have been out of favor for only a short time.

9 Significant examples of this view include Robert Bolwell, The Life and Works of John Heywood (New York: Columbia University Press, 1921); Robert Carl Johnson, John Heywood (New York: Twayne, 1970); Ian Maxwell, French Farce and John Heywood (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1946); Lois Potter, "The Plays and the Playwrights," in The Revels History of Drama in English, gen. ed. Clifford Leech and T. W. Craik, 8 vols. (London: Methuen, 1975-83), 2:167-72; F. P. Wilson, The English Drama, 1485-1585 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1968), 27-32. In Early Tudor Drama, Reed describes Heywood as caught up in his turbulent times but claims that the plays are generally uncontroversial. A few critics have argued for topicality and political comment in Heywood: see Axton and Happe, Plays, 1-52; David Bevington, Tudor Drama and Politics: A Critical Approach to Topical Meaning (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1968), 64-74, and "Is John Heywood's Play of the Weather Really about the Weather?" Renaissance Drama 7 (1964): 11-19; Alistair Fox, Politics and Literature in the Reigns of Henry VII and Henry VIII (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1989),247-54; and especially Greg Walker's Plays of Persuasion: Drama and Politics at the Court of Henry VIII (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991),133-68, and The Politics of Performance in Early Renaissance Drama (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1998)),76-116.

10 A classic example of this historical narrative is found in A. G. Dickens, The English Reformation (New York: Schocken, 1964). For examples of revisionist views, see Eamon Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England, c. i4oo-c.158o (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992); G. R. Elton, Policy and Police: The Enforcement of the Reformation in the Age of Thomas Cromwell (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1972); and Christopher Haigh, ed., The English Reformation Revised (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987). Rosemary O'Day, in The Debate on the English Reformation (London: Methuen, 1986), reviews the historiographical issues.
11 Walker, "The Image of Dissent: John Skelton, Thomas More, and the 'Lost' History of the Early Reformation in England," in Persuasive Fictions: Faction, Faith, and Political Culture in the Reign of Henry VIII (Aldershot: Scolar Press, 1996), 174.

12 I have chosen to focus here on the dates of printing rather than on the necessarily speculative (and long-debated) dates of composition. Printing marks the emergence of the plays into public political discourse in a way that composition and performance (the latter of which took place in fairly exclusive circumstances, either at the royal court or within the More circle) do not. Indeed, it can be argued that printing the plays in 1533 was itself a political gesture. For the question of composition dates, see Axton and Happe, Plays, 38-52; Bolwell, Life and Works, 90-112; Kenneth Walter Cameron, John Heywood's "Play of the Wether": A Study in Early Tudor Drama (Raleigh: Thistle Press, 1941), 40-54; Reed, Early Tudor Drama, 118-47. For discussion of staging and audience, see Richard Axton, "Royal Throne, Royal Bed: John Heywood and Spectacle," Medieval English Theatre 16 (1994): 6676; Axton and Happe, Plays, 27-31; T. W. Craik, The Tudor Interlude: Stage, Costume, and Acting (Leicester: Leicester University Press, 1958); Peter Happe, "Spectacle in Bale and Heywood," Medieval English Theatre 16 (1994): 51-65; Richard Southern, "The Technique of Play Presentation," in Craik, Revels History, 2:91-92, and The Staging of Plays before Shakespeare (New York: Theatre Arts Books, 1973), 201-3, 230-53.

13 The Pardoner and the Frere appeared in April 1533, and The Play of the Wether probably at about the same time. There is no surviving edition of The Foure PP before William Middleton's edition of c. 1544, but Axton and Happe follow Bolwell in arguing that the play was probably also first printed in 1533 (Axton and Happe, Plays, 42; Bolwell, Life and Works, 104-5).
14 For a discussion of the debate form and theatricality in Heywood, see Roberta Mullini, "Dialogue and Debate in John Heywood's Plays: Witty and Witless, The Play of Love, and The Play of the Wether," in Tudor Theatre: "Let there be covenants...": Convention et Theatre, Tours Round Tables on Tudor Drama 4 (Bern: Lang, 1998), 11-25.

15 Joel B. Altman, The Tudor Play of Mind: Rhetorical Inquiry and the Development of Elizabethan Drama (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1978), 32.
16 Richard Halpern, The Poetics of Primitive Accumulation: English Renaissance Culture and the Genealogy of Capital (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1991), 50.
17 C. F. Tucker Brooke, The Tudor Drama: A History of English National Drama to the Retirement of Shakespeare (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 191), 97.
18 Jody Enders, Rhetoric and the Origins of Medieval Drama (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1992), 165. Enders is writing specifically of French drama, which was often linked to the university law schools. Although the English situation is by no means identical to that of France, Heywood himself, as a member of the More circle, was closely associated with lawyers and legal publishers.

19 Bruce W. Holsinger, "Sodomy and Resurrection: The Homoerotic Subject of the Divine Comedy," in Premodern Sexualities, ed. Louise Fradenburg and Carla Freccero (New York: Routledge, 1996), 250. Holsinger is describing Dante's use of transumptio, a rhetorical technique which requires the reader to interpret a specific trope through its literary antecedents. For the history of transumptio, see John Hollander, The Figure of Echo: A Mode of Allusion in Milton and After (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1981), 33-49; and William Purcell, "Transsumptio: A Rhetorical Doctrine of the Thirteenth Century," Rhetorica 5 (1987): 369-410. Although the fairly obvious allusions (and sometimes lengthy borrowings) I will explore in this essay are not transumptio in the strict sense, they similarly condition interpretation through prior texts.

20 Seth Lerer, Chaucer and His Readers: Imagining the Author in Late-Medieval England (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993), 11.
21 For detailed information on Heywood's sources, see Axton and Happe, Plays, 32-52.
22 I am arguing, therefore, from a somewhat different position than that put forward by Annabel Patterson in Censorship and Interpretation: The Conditions of Writing and Reading in Early Modern England (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1984).
23 For the theological and legal issues the divorce raised, see J. J. Scarisbrick, Henry VIII (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1968), 163-97.

24 All citations of Heywood's plays refer to Axton and Happe, Plays.
25 Some critics, such as James C. Bryant ("The Pardoner and the Friar as Reformation Polemic," in Renaissance Papers, 1971, ed. Dennis G. Donovan and A. Leigh Deneef [Durham: Southeastern Renaissance Conference, 1972], 20) and Richard Southern (Staging, 251), have assumed that the printing means that the lines are delivered alternately. However, the stage direction quite clearly indicates simultaneity.
26 Axton and Happe, Plays, 17.

27 See ibid., 39-42.
28 Ibid., 39-40.
29 Maxwell argues that both Pardoner and The Foure PP are based almost entirely on a French play, La Farce dun Pardonneur (French Farce, 70-86). However, the plays' Chaucerian references are far too apparent, and too significant, to discount.
30 For an analysis of Heywood's Pardoner as a literary type, see Roberta Mullini, "'The Relicts in the Water': The Pardoner from Chaucer to Heywood and Lindsay," in Tudor Theatre: The Problematics of Text and Character, Tours Round Tables on Tudor Drama 1 (Bern: Lane, 1994), 145-61.

31 Thomas More, A Dialogue Concerning Heresies, ed. Thomas M. C. Lawler, Germain Marc'hadour, and Richard C. Marius, in The Complete Works of St. Thomas More, 15 vols. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1963-97), vol. 6, bk. 1, 217.
32 Francis Thynne, Animaduersions, ed. F. J. Furnivall and G. H. Kingsley, EETS o.s. 9 (London, 1875; reprint, 1965), 10.

33 The Plowman's Tale: The c. 1532 and 16o6 Editions of a Spurious Canterbury Tale, ed. Mary Rhinelander McCarl (New York: Garland, 1997), 16.
34 Bryant claims, without providing evidence, that the play was indeed "put to use by Reformers" ("Pardoner and the Friar," 18).
35 All citations of Chaucer refer to The Riverside Chaucer, gen. ed. Larry D. Benson, 3d ed. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1987).
36 For easier comprehension, I have removed the Pardoner's simultaneous lines, printed as intervening lines.
37 The Friar in The Summoner's Tale, whom Heywood's Frere in some ways resembles,

also claims that friars are those most deserving of contributions. However, Heywood's Frere's emphasis on "covetyse" is derived from Chaucer's Pardoner and not the Friar, who discusses the sin of anger.
38 I have removed the Pardoner's lines from this passage (cf. note 36 above).
39 William Langland, The Vision of Piers the Plowman: A Critical Edition of the B-Text, ed. A. V. C. Schmidt, id ed. (London: Dent, Everyman, 1995). All citations of Piers Plowman refer to this edition.

40 Anne Hudson, ed., Selections from English Wycliffite Writings (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1978), 95.
41 The Plowman's Tale, ed. McCarl (1533 text, 65-120).
42 Pierce the Ploughmans Crede, ed. Walter W. Skeat, EETS O.s. 30 (London, 1867).
43 As A. G. Dickens puts it, "Protestant activists appropriated and expanded the old anti-clericalism" ("The Shape of Anti-clericalism and the English Reformation," in Politics

and Society in Reformation Europe, ed. E. I. Kouri and Tom Scott [New York: St. Martin's, 1987,399). Wendy Scase, in "Piers Plowman"and the New Anticlericalism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), argues for a similar transformation of anticlericalism but claims that Piers Plowman and other fourteenth-century texts mark the transition.
44 William Tyndale, The Obedience of a Christen Man (1528; facsimile reprint, Amsterdam: Theatrum Orbis Terratum, 1977), 77r.
45 Simon Fish, A Supplicacyon for the Beggers, in Four Supplications, ed. Frederick J. Furnivall, EETS e.s. 13 (London, 1871), 1.

46 Axton and Happe, Plays, 39

47 Walker, Politics of Performance,101.
48 It is worth noting that Thomas More was careful to obtain permission from the bishop of London before writing his anti-heretical works. This was partly a legal matter (permission was required to read and possess Lutheran books); however, More's care to authorize his work suggests a growing anxiety about lay interpretation and participation in controversy. For an account of the composition of More's polemics, see Richard Marius, Thomas More: A Biography (New York: Knopf, 1984), 338-50.

49 There is some uncertainty about the date of this play's first printing (see note 13 above). Reed notes that William Middleton's 1544 edition coincides with the treason charges against Heywood and his recantation, and argues that the printing was meant to rescue Heywood by displaying, ironically enough, his anticlericalism (Early Tudor Drama, 125-26).

50 The role of "game" in The Canterbury Tales is the subject of some debate. For two very different approaches, see Glending Olson, "Chaucer's Idea of a Canterbury Game," in The Idea of Medieval Literature, ed. James M. Dean and Christian K. Zacher (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1992), 72-90; and Laura Kendrick, Chaucerian Play: Comedy and Control in "The Canterbury Tales"(Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1988).

51 Thomas More, The Apology, ed. J. B. Trapp, vol. 9 of Complete Works of St. Thomas More, 12. More is referring to the illegal distribution in England of Tyndale's translation of the New Testament, hence his soon-to-be ironic condemnation of Protestant activism as disobedience to Henry VIII.

52 "A Mery Gest How A Sergeaunt Wolde Lerne to Be a Frere," ed. Anthony S. G. Edwards, in Complete Works of St. Thomas More, vol. i.
53 Jack Upland, in Six Ecclesiastical Satires, ed. James M. Dean (Kalamazoo: Medieval Institute Publications, 1991), 119-32.

54 John Skelton, The Complete English Poems, ed. John Scattergood (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1983). For discussion of this borrowing, see Axton and Happe, Plays, 44.
55 Edwin Shepard Miller, "Guilt and Penalty in Heywood's Pardoner's Lie," Modern Language Quarterly 10 (1949): 6o. For a critique of Miller's position, see David Boocker, "Heywood's Indulgent Pardoner," English Language Notes 29.2 (1991): 21-29.

56 Attacks on purgatory occur in such English Protestant works as Simon Fish's Supplicacyon for the Beggers (c. 1529) and John Frith's Disputacion of Purgatorye (1531).
57 Kent Cartwright, "The Humanism of Acting: John Heywood's The Foure PP," Studies in the Literary Imagination 26 (1993): 34.
58 In "Formation of the Christian Self in The Four PP" (Acta 13 [1987]: 143-52), Richard Finkelstein argues (over-optimistically in my view) that the misogyny merely reveals the characters' sinful pride and that the play's harmonious ending erases any lingering misogynistic traces.

59 Axton and Happe, Plays, 45, 259 n. Boocker rather inexplicably argues that this passage parodies the papal court (Haywood's Indulgent Pardoner, 28-29).
60 Axton and Happe, Plays, 259 n.

61 Statutes of the Realm, 23 Henry VIII, c. 2o. The act was confirmed in 1534.

62 It is here that I would differ from Alcuin Blamires's conclusion, in "John Heywood and The Four PP," Trivium 14 (1979), that the play is "a very sane rearguard action against blinkered fanaticism" (67). The play does not plead for tolerance in the modern sense, but for tolerance within the confines of Catholic orthodoxy.

63 Cameron, "Play of the Wether," 56. Among more recent critics, David Bevington claims the play provides "a humanist rationale for Tudor absolutism" (Tudor Drama, 7o). Greg Walker argues, in Plays of Persuasion, that Wether urges the reformation of the royal household, but also the king's rejection of all "partisan counsel" in favor of "the absolutist possibilities, even the absolutist obligations" of personal rule (166). More recently, Walker has argued that while Heywood praises Henry's "decision to rule more directly," his "aim was clearly not simply to pander to royal wishes, but to shape those wishes and hence royal policy, in directions he himself favoured" (Politics of Performance, 91).
64 Axton and HappY, Plays, 47-52.

65 E. K. Chambers (The Mediaeval Stage, 2 vols. [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1903], 2:203-5) denies any connection between the vices in interludes and the agents of sin and temptation in the moralities. Later critics such as Bernard Spivack (Shakespeare and the Allegory of Evil [New York: Columbia University Press, 1958], 130-5o) and David Bevington (From "Mankind" to Marlowe [Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1962]) have argued for such a link, as part of a general reassessment of the relation between medieval and Elizabethan drama. In any case, Mery Reporte so strongly resembles other vices like New Gyse and Nowadays in Mankind that a connection seems clear.
66 OED sense na): "Rumour, common talk. (Sometimes personified)" (The Oxford English Dictionary, 2d ed.).

67 Statutes of the Realm, 24 Henry VIII, c. 12.
68 Vicki K. Janik, Fools and Jesters in Literature, Art, and History (Westport: Greenwood, 1998), 314

69 For one alternative reading of Jupiter's authority, see Nai-Tung Ting, "The Use of Folk Tales in the Works of John Heywood," International Folklore Review 4 (1986), which discusses the play's intriguing similarity to folk tales in which the weather reformer is a charlatan, "a clever rogue who has no intention of keeping this promise" (57).
70 Unfortunately, an adequate consideration of the play's classical subtext is beyond the scope of this paper. It is worth remembering, though, that the classical Jupiter (especially in the Ovidian tradition with which Heywood was undoubtedly familiar) is hardly a benign figure. Besides the specifically political and religious issues I discuss here, Heywood may be encoding a critique of Henry's sexual adventures. As Peter Happe notes, "Jupiter as a god was nothing if not sexual" ("Dramatic Images of Kingship in Heywood and Bale," Studies in English Literature 39 [1999]: 244). For Wether's classical and other sources, see Cameron, "Play of the Wether,' 9-27.

71 For Herod in medieval drama, see David Staines, "To Out-Herod Herod: The Development of a Dramatic Character," in Drama in the Middle Ages, ed. Clifford Davidson, C. J. Gianakaris, and John Fl. Stroupe (New York: AMS Press, 1982), 207-31. The use of Herod and other tyrant figures in moralities and humanist drama is discussed by Rebecca W. Bushnell, Tragedies of Tyrants: Political Thought and Theater in the English Renaissance (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1990), So-ii5.The Herod comparison did not occur only to Heywood. When John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, was testifying against the royal divorce in 1527, he alluded to the story of Herod Antipas' divorce and marriage to Herodias, and John the Baptist's execution for opposing it (Marius, Thomas More, 358-59).

72 It is, of course, not provable that Heywood knew the cycles (although it is likely that Heywood grew up in Coventry, the center of a cycle now mostly lost). There is evidence, however, that cycle manuscripts circulated (David Mills and Peter F. McDonald, "The Drama of Religious Ceremonial," in Revels History, ed. Craik, 1: yo). Because we do not know which cycles Heywood may have read, my discussion here will draw on all the surviving cycles.
73 Axton and Happy and Cameron note this resemblance in passing, but do not consider it in any detail (Axton and HappY, Plays, 288 n.; Cameron, "Play of the Wether," 54).

Walker argues that Jupiter is linked to God the Father in the cycle plays, but he does not discuss the connection to the tyrant figures (Plays of Persuasion, 147-48).
74 Two Coventry Corpus Christi Plays, ed. Hardin Craig, Zd ed., EETS e.s. 87 (London: Oxford University Press, 1957).
75 The York Plays, ed. Richard Beadle (London: Edward Arnold, 1982). All subsequent citations of the York cycle refer to this edition.

76 Statutes of the Realm, 24 Henry III, c. 12.
77 The Chester Mystery Cycle, ed. R. M. Lumiansky and David Mills, 2 vols., EETS s.s. 3 and 9 (London: Oxford University Press, 1974 and 1986), vol. 1. All subsequent citations of the Chester cycle refer to this edition.

78 The Towneley Plays, ed. Martin Stevens and A. C. Cawley, 2 vols., EETS s.s. 13-14 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994), vol. 1. All subsequent citations of the Towneley cycle refer to this edition.
79 The N-Town Play, ed. Stephen Spector, 2 vols., EETS s.s. 1i and 12 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991), vol. 1. All subsequent citations of the N-Town cycle refer to this edition.
80 See note 73 above.
81 V. A. Kolve, The Play Called Corpus Christi (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1966), 9. Rosemary Woolf discusses Lucifer's imitativeness in The English Mystery Plays (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1972), 105-13.

82 Towneley, 16.62-73; N-Town, 23.157-78.
83 John Bale's Protestant revisions of the cycle plays (God's Promises, Johan Baptystes Preachynge, and The Temptation of Our Lord, all written c. 1538 and printed in 1547) would shortly reappropriate Heywood's own use of the cycles (The Complete Plays of John Bale, ed. Peter Happe, 2 vols. [Cambridge: D. S. Brewer,1985]).

84 Notably, the Towneley cycle may have been written and performed specifically as anti-Lollard propaganda, as Lauren Lepow argues in Enacting the Sacrament: Counter-Lollardy in the Towneley Cycle (Rutherford: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1990). In the Towneley plays, as Lepow notes, the tyrants' language often has Lollard echoes (ibid., 63-79). Although Heywood's knowledge of the Towneley cycle is inevitably uncertain, its link between tyrants and heretics is suggestive for Heywood's anti-supremacy use of cycle drama.

85 Norman Sanders, "The Social and Historical Context," in Leech and Craik, Revels History, 2:8. The reasons for the suppression, however, are not known.
86 Ibid., 9.
87 See ibid., 7-11; and Harold C. Gardiner, S. J., Mysteries' End: An Investigation of the Last Days of the Medieval Religious Stage (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1946).

88 There is, of course, irony in Heywood's nostalgic recollection of the turbulent late fourteenth century. Heywood can be seen as furthering, in a sense, the Henrician break with the past by participating in the Renaissance reimagining of the Middle Ages as monolithic and changeless.
89 Raymond Williams, Marxism and Literature (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977), 122.

90 David Loades discusses the events of that year, which included a plot for invasion and Mary's deposition, rumors of assassination attempts on the queen, and a devastatingly poor harvest, in Mary Tudor: A Life (Oxford and Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1989), 261-7o.
91 Besides other gifts and the renewal of his household office as sewer, Mary granted lands to Heywood in 1554 and 1558 (Bolwell, Life and Works, 56, 61).

92 John Heywood, The Spider and the Flie (1556; facsimile reprint, New York: Burt Franklin, 1967), ch. 77, st. 5, 1-2.