John Skelton: The Critical Heritage

By Anthony S. G.Edwards | Go to book overview

prologue, to evoke the devil, and summon the court. The devil kicks the necromancer, for waking him so soon in the morning: a proof, that this drama was performed in the morning, perhaps in the chapel of the palace. A variety of measures, with shreds of Latin and French, is used: but the devil speaks in the octave stanza. One of the stage-directions is, Enter Balsebub with a Berde. To make him both frightful and ridiculous, the devil was most commonly introduced on the stage, wearing a visard with an immense beard. Philargyria quotes Seneca and saint Austin: and Simony offers the devil a bribe. The devil rejects her offer with much indignation: and swears by the foule Eumenides, and the hoary beard of Charon, that she shal be well fried and roasted in the unfathomable sulphur of Cocytus, together with Mahomet, Pontius Pilate, the traitor Judas, and king Herod. The last scene is closed with a view of hell and a dance between the devil and the necromancer. The dance ended, the devil trips up the necromancer’s heels, and disappears in fire and smoke. Great must have been the edification and entertainment which king Henry the seventh and his court derived from the exhibition of so elegant and rational a drama! The royal taste for dramatic representation seems to have suffered a very rapid transition: for in the year 1520, a goodlie comedie of Plautus was played before king Henry the eighth at Greenwich….


Notes
1
A medieval English satiric poet.
2
A general name for medieval Latin satiric verse.

31.

PHILIP NEVE ON SKELTON: ‘A RUDE AND SCURRILOUS RHYMER’

1789

From ‘Cursory Remarks on Some of the Ancient English Poets…’ (1789), p. 10.

John Skelton, a rude and scurrilous rhymer of the reign of

-83-

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