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REVIEWS The Plays of John Heywood, ed. Richard Axton and Peter Happé. Tudor Interludes, 6. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1991. Pp. xviii + 339. $99.00. The quality of the editing in this volume is predictably high—predictably , in that the previous five volumes of the Tudor Interludes series, all edited by a small and compatible group of scholars that includes Richard Axton, Marie Axton, Peter Happé, and Alan Nelson, have been consistently learned. Cumulatively, the series is performing an important service by providing us with fully annotated editions of Tudor humanists and playwrights in the original Tudor English, with glossaries and listing of textual variants and doubtful readings. We now have three plays from the press of John Rastell, the two surviving plays of Henry Medwall, three Tudor classical interludes (Thersites, Jack Juggler, and Horestes), and the complete plays of John Bale in two volumes. I personally would have much preferred modern spelling; the distortions are minimal in relation to the benefits of pleasurably comfortable reading, and I fear that the editors will lose through their use of Tudor spelling much of the wider readership they must have hoped to find. (The price, $99.00, won't help either.) In my university's library, oldspelling editions like Fredson Bowers' Complete Works of Christopher Marlowe can always be found on the shelves under a thin layer of dust, whereas Carter Daniel's The Plays of John LyIy in modern spelling makes the rounds. It is an irony that the most readable dramatic text in this present edition is the editors' lively English translation, in an appendix, of La farce du pasté (here entitled A new, excellent, and very entertaining farce about the pie), Heywood's French model for his Johan Johan. The editors freely concede that the "vagaries of spelling" in the various Heywood texts that have come down to us are considerable, and that Heywood's own spelling is "irrecoverable" (p. xii). Still, old-spelling editing is respectable and safe, and I readily admit there are two sides to this question. John Heywood offers an attractive package for a volume of this sort, as the Preface and Introduction point out: six plays, theatrically experimental in their own day, and written by a man with close connections to the court and to the humanist circle of Thomas More. The Introduction , accompanied by a detailed chronology of facts and dates and a family tree, is highly informative about Heywood's life. (One notes that the Introduction on p. 1 gives Heywood's death date as 1578, and more or less confirms this date implicitly as c.1578 in the chronology, whereas the family tree plumps for 1580. Indeterminacy scores a brief triumph over positivism.) Much of the information, about pension awards, the Rastells' publishing records, and watermarks, is of the dry sort one finds in the Chaucer Life Records, but the editors do show what is useful to our appreciation of the plays in the story of a professional entertainer 271 272Comparative Drama who long remained in favor at court despite his allegiance to the Catholic faith. (The story of Heywood's arrest for conspiring against Cranmer in 1542-43, his apparent restoration to favor, and his life as a religious exile from 1564 until his death is an absorbing one, but postdates his activity as a playwright.) Importantly, the editors provide a new chronology of Heywood's career, based on some reinterpretation of existing data and on some new evidence about Heywood's employment. By dating the plays closer to date of publication than previous scholars have done, they claim more for Heywood's topicality and cheeky audacity than in earlier estimates. Although the editors are better at discussing Heywood's sources and contexts than at summarizing action and structure of the individual plays, they do show the intellectual seriousness, the political and religious sensitivity , the self-deprecating wit, the commitment to disputation as a humanist form of discourse, and the delight in proverbs and in sexual double entendre of this lively dramatist. They address their subject as a playwright interested in the craft of theater even in his most seemingly static plays. They are interested in structural patterning and its...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 271-276
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
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