THE MATTER OF FARCE
AT FIRST GLANCE, HEYWOOD'S DEBT TO THE FRENCH theatre seems simple. In farce he found a form of light comedy, secular, realistic, and often dramatic in the full sense of the word. We might well suppose that acquaintance with two or three specimens would suffice to make him at home with the type, and that he knew no more than he can be proved to have appropriated. Those who take this view will explain the diversity of his theatre as due either to his own 'airy genie' or to false attributions.
In my view neither explanation is required. I cannot yet attempt to estimate the real extent of French influence in Heywood's work, but it is important to realize at the outset that the French stage would offer him a wealth of models and foster the spirit of invention. Even among the plays that go for farces in the catalogue, there is a large variety of minor types.
Most of these fall into one or other of two broad groups. About a score consist of mere talk without plot or real situation, and should be described rather as debates, discussions, or satiric examinations, than as plays. Of these the Dialogue du fou et du sage has a special interest as one of Heywood's alleged sources; but among the best are the dialogue, once attributed to Villon, of Messieurs de Mallepaye et de Baillevent--a jaunty duet between two down-at-heel adventurers, in which the talk flashes from topic to topic, leaving no outline but in air--and Clément Marot's Deux amoureux, a graceful conversation, picturing with charming clarity the lady, disdainful of sighs and serenades, and the country child, wooed with summer grapes, with kisses and trinkets. To the simpler dialogues may be added one or two complex parliamentations, such as Margaret of Navarre's La vieille; while Les pauvres diables, in which representative citizens are examined before a taxing tribunal, may stand as an