Nonfiction > Henry Craik, ed. > English Prose > Vol. I. Fourteenth to Sixteenth Century
Henry Craik, ed.  English Prose.  1916.
Vol. I. Fourteenth to Sixteenth Century
The Playmakers’ Sophistries Exposed
By Stephen Gosson (1554–1624)
From Plays confuted

THE AUTHOR of the Play of Plays, spreading out his battle to hem me in, is driven to take so large a compass, that his array is the thinner, and therefore the easier, to be broken. He tieth life and delight so fast together, that if delight be restrained, life presently perisheth; there, zeal perceiving delight to be embraced of life, puts a snaffle in his mouth, to keep him under. Delight, being bridled, zeal leadeth life through a wilderness of loathesomeness, where glut scareth them all, chasing both zeal and delight from life, and with the club of amazedness strikes such a peg into the head of life, that he falls down for dead upon the stage.
  Life being thus faint, and overtravailed, destitute of his guide, robbed of delight, is ready to give up the ghost, in the same place. Then entereth recreation, which, with music and singing rocks life asleep to recover his strength.  2
  By this means tediousness is driven from life, and the taint is drawn out of his head, which the club of amazedness left behind.  3
  At last recreation setteth up the gentleman upon his feet, delight is restored to him again, and such kind of sports for cullises 1 are brought in to nourish him, as none but delight must apply to his stomach. Then time being made for the benefit of life, and life being allowed to follow his appetite, amongst all manner of pastimes, life chooseth comedies for his delight, partly because comedies are neither chargeable to the beholder’s purse, nor painful to his body; partly because he may sit out of the rain to view the same, when many other pastimes are hindered by weather. Zeal is no more admitted to life before he be somewhat pinched in the waist, to avoid extremity, and being not in the end simply called zeal, but moderate zeal, a few conditions are prescribed to comedies, that the matter be purged, deformities blazed, sin rebuked, honest mirth intermingled, and fit time for the hearing of the same appointed. Moderate zeal is contented to suffer them, who joineth with delight to direct life again, after which he triumphs over death and is crowned with eternity. These bugs 2 are fitter to fear babes than to move men. Nevertheless this is the substance of that which is brought for plays, this is the pillar of their credit. All other men that subscribe not this but inveigh against them, by writing in books, or by tongue in pulpits, do but crow, as he termeth it, and speak against comedies for lack of learning. St. Cyprian, St. Chrysostom, St. Ambrose, St. Augustine, Isodorus, Tertullian, fathers of the Church most excellently learned; councils, as the third of Carthage, the Synod of Laodicea, and such like, that condemned plays, and the skilfullest divines at this day in England which are compelled in sermons to cry out against them, were now to be set to the school again, if the mouth of this playmaker were any just measure of their knowledge. Sithence all their force consisteth in this point of life and delight, I will take the more pain to overthrow it, and so conquer the rest without skirmish, like to the Romans who, meeting the whole power of Carthage upon the sea, and foiling it there, thought it superfluous to proceed any further, or bring the ram to the walls, when Carthage was drowned in the deep. And as the Romans thought that after Carthage was overcome, no country was ashamed to be subdued, so I trust that when I have beaten their captain to the earth, by force of argument, none of them all will disdain to be taken, or to cry out with testimony of good conscience, great is the truth and it doth prevail. Though it please not him to distinguish between delight and delight, yet for the better understanding both of that which is spoken in defence of plays, and of that which by me shall be brought against them, you must consider that there are two sorts of delight, the one belonging to the body, the other to the mind—that is carnal, this, spiritual. Carnal delight is the rest of sensual appetite in the thing desired when it is felt. If this be not governed by the rule of God’s Word, we are presently carted beyond ourselves, therefore ought we to follow the counsel of St. Paul, which exhorteth us earnestly to suppress the same. Spiritual delight is the operation of virtue consisting in a meditation of the life to come purchased to us by the blood of Christ, and revealed for our comfort in the Word of God. A notable blessing is pronounced on him whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and the prophet himself voweth solemnly to God, that he will talk of his commandments, walk in his ways, and delight in his statutes. By the whole discourse it may be gathered that the delight belonging to the body, is it, which this gentleman requireth as physic against the troubles and vexations of this life, which bewrayeth him to be soused in that error, that Aristotle reproveth in his Ethics. For if the delight of this life be to be sought as a remedy against the sorrows of the same, excess of delight must be granted to excess of sorrow, as excess of thirst requireth excess of drink; excess of hunger, excess of meat; excess of grief, excess of pleasure: but excess of delight in this life is not to be sought, for fear of surfeit; therefore to cure the anguish of this life with such kind of pleasures as life pursues, is to measure the remedy by our own appetite, which indeed is nothing else but either to receive that that our sick stomach desireth, when it cannot judge; as to eat chalk in the green sickness; in an ague, pilchards; or as they that in some kind of leprosy drink poison, which is altogether hurtful to good complexions, yet worketh it accidentally some ease in them. Being once shipped in this part of philosophy, he is carried too far beyond his skill.  4
Note 1. cullises = a strong soup or broth. [back]
Note 2. bugs = bugbears. [back]

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