The “L” Words: A Tudor Performance

One of the things I enjoyed reading about while researching my just-completed novel was the entertainments that were put on at court.  For a scene in my novel, I had a try at re-creating one, described as follows by the imperial ambassador: “At the same time one of the King’s lesser gentlemen was created Lord of Misrule, which had not been done for fifteen or sixteen years, and received permission to do and say whatever he pleased without ever being called to book for it. He was accompanied by about 100 persons of the same description; and besides several witty and harmless pranks, he played other quite outrageous ones, for example, a religious procession of priests and bishops. They paraded through the Court, and carried, under an infamous tabernacle, a representation of the holy sacrament in its monstrance, which they wetted and perfumed in most strange fashion, with great ridicule of the ecclesiastical estate. Not a few Englishmen were highly scandalised by this behaviour; and the French and Venetian ambassadors, who were at Court at the time, showed clearly enough that the spectacle was repugnant to them.”

The following performance, however, assuming it was enacted at all, occurred too late for me to include it in my novel. It sounds fun, and shows that Queen Mary’s court wasn’t as dour as it’s sometimes made to seem:

1556. Letter from Wylyam Baldwyn, player and dramatic author, to The Ryght Worshipfull Syr Thomas Caverden, &c.

“Love and Lyve.—You shall vnderstande syr that I have made a Comedie concernyng the way to lyfe, mete as it is supposed to be played before the Quene, and there be of the lnnes of Court that desyer to have the settyng furth therof, but because your worship now thre yeros passed offered in a sort to set furth some of my rude devises, I thought it good to know your mynde herein, before I gave answer to any other. The settyng furth wil be chargeable, beoause the matter is stately, comprehending a discourse of the worlde. There be in it of sundry personages lxii, and the play is iii heures long; it is now in learnyng and well be ready within these x dayes. The matter is this, I bring in a yong man whome I name Lamnel who hath a servant called Lob, these two will attempte the worlde to seke theyr fortune, they mete with Lust Lucke and Love; Lust promises them lechorie, Lucke lordship, Love lyfe; they follow lust and through locherie be lost, then through Lucke they recover, Lucke bringeth them to lordship from which through Largcs and Lawaicine [?] they cum to Lacke. Than through Love, they go to Light and therby attayne Lyfe. All the players names begin with L. And such as ensue.

Baldwin goes on to list his characters:

Lamech, an husbondman.
Lamuel, his sonne.
Lob, his servant.

Lust, a lady
Lucke, a lady
Love, a lady

Layies Lechery, a sumtuous hore.
Lokyngg, her maiden.
Lokyng, her maiden.
Lotheyng, her man.
Lowting, her man.

Lantidu Sterves, an hore.
Lymping Cure, a vlmoinhedge.
Lusty Lilberne, a lowtysh ruffian.
Landardy Lashar, a roysting ruffian.
Lightfeete, his lacky.
Leonard Lustyguts, an epicure.
Sir Lowes Lewdlyfe, a chaplayn.
Lubberdy Lazy,  Lustigut’s man.
Liberal  Laucher, Lustigut’s man.
Lame Lazar, a spittleman.
Laurans Littleskyll, a surgeon.
Lither Wyll, his boy.

Lordship borne in a chare  by these fower:
Linage
Landes
Leadall coynt
Lawe

Liegerdemayne, and olde courtier.
Lammarkin, a Lance knight.
Lodovico de S. Lukerseco, an Italian horseman.
Lamphaderezumph, a drowerslate.
Linage Linker, an harolde.
Lawe, a lady
Lewdnes, a lady
Lothly Luchre, a huswyfe.
Lueres Lockfast. her mayd.
Large Conscience, a manservant.
Lying, a manservant.
Lyenefinger, a manservant.
Liegerde pied, a Frenchman.
Lyverwhite, a Frenchman.
Landgrave van Luxenburgh. Lieutenant of an army.

Light accompanied in a throne with these iiii:
Line & Levell—Justice.
Lenitie—Mercy.
Learnyng.
Labor.

Larraeine, an extorcioner
Lawash, a stuarde
Lot, a virtue
Lyvelode, a virtue.
Leannes, a virtue.
Lyking, a viture.
Let, a vice.
Lameutyng, a state
Longyng, a state
Littleleft, a pore sutor.
Libertie, a ladye.
Last Yeres,an aged man.
Little Loktfor, death.
Lyfe a tabernacle.

Sydney Anglo in Spectacle, Pageantry, and Early Tudor Policy states that it is not known whether this play was ever performed, but with characters like Leonard Lustyguts, two whores, and two ruffians, one hopes that it was. William Baldwin, incidentally, contributed verse tragedies to the sixteenth-century anthology A Mirror for Magistrates: his subjects included Richard, Duke of York, and George, Duke of Clarence.

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