Reference > Cambridge History > The Drama to 1642, Part One > Early English Comedy > Probability of French influence
  Period of his dramatic activity His interludes: Witty and Witless; Love; Wether; The Foure P. P.  


The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume V. The Drama to 1642, Part One.

V. Early English Comedy.

§ 4. Probability of French influence.

But recent investigations indicate that Heywood’s novel type of play was influenced by foreign models; that his stimulus came, not mainly from the realistic elements in the moralities, but from the soties or farces which had long been popular in France. 4  If similar productions existed to any wide extent in medieval England, of which there is no proof, they have left only one survival, the fragmentary Interludium de Clerico et Puella. 5  In any case, he could not have had any difficulty in familiarising himself with part of the repertory of the contemporary French stage. During the earlier Tudor reigns, there was active intercourse between the courts on both sides of the Channel. There is official record of visits of “Frenche Pleyers” in 1494 and 1495, and of “6 Mynstrells of France” about fourteen years later. No documentary evidence of similar visits in Henry VIII’s reign has yet been found, but they probably took place, and the story of Maistre Pierre Patelin had found its way into English at least as early as 1535. And between three plays traditionally assigned to Heywood and three French works, as is shown more fully below, the parallelism in design and treatment cannot be accidental.   5
  While the fact of the relationship between Heywood’s interludes and Gallic farce may, therefore, be taken as generally proved, definite statements on details are hazardous, partly because of the uncertainty of dates, and partly because the canon of Heywood’s plays cannot be fixed beyond dispute. Two interludes, The Play of the wether and A play of love, were first printed by William Rastell in 1533 and 1534 6  respectively, and have Heywood’s name on the title-page. The Play called the foure P. P., is assigned to him in the three editions issued by W. Myddleton, W. Copland and J. Allde, of which only the last (1569) is dated. A Dialogue concerning Witty and Witless is preserved in a British Museum manuscript ending “Amen qd John Heywood.” In addition to these four unquestionably authentic plays, two others were printed by William Rastell: A mery Play betwene the pardoner and the frere, the curate and neybour Pratte, in 1533, and A mery play between Johan the husbande Johan Tyb his wyfe & syr Jhān the preest in 1533/4. A. W. Pollard was the first to lay stress on the fact that these pieces, though always attributed to Heywood, do not bear his name. 7  They may, however, be assigned to him with reasonable certainty, as it is highly improbable that there were two dramatists at work, closely akin in style and technique, and both issuing plays simultaneously through Rastell’s press. 8    6

Note 4. See, especially, Young, K., “Influence of French Farce upon John Heywood,” Modern Philology, vol. II, pp. 97–124. [ back ]
Note 5. Cf. ante, Chaps. II and III. [ back ]
Note 6. See Bibliography to this chapter. [ back ]
Note 7. Gayley, R. E. C., pp. 6 and 10. [ back ]
Note 8. Pollard points out (loc. cit, p. 6) that the omission of Heywood’s name in the two anonymously printed comedies “is fairly well accounted for by the fact that in The Play of Love, and Play of the wether Rastell printed the title and dramatis personae on a separate leaf, whereas in The pardoner and the frere and Johan the husbande, etc., there is only a head title.” [ back ]

  Period of his dramatic activity His interludes: Witty and Witless; Love; Wether; The Foure P. P.  
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