1. Captiva Religio is preserved by two manuscripts in the English College (Rome) library. In the ms. designated here as A it is identified as a Comaedia-Tragaedia, or, as we would say, a tragicomedy, and it is easy to see why. It has such comic elements as language frequently borrowed from Plautus and Terence, features a number of stock comic characters, and concludes happily (the play’s outcome is explicitly called comoedice at 2711). On the other hand, the seriousness of the play’s fundamental theme (the mistreatment of the Catholic faith in England) and the genuine pain and depth of emotions experienced by some of the characters impart notes of earnestness and urgency foreign to comedy. Then too, just after we have been given an obligatory happy ending, its effect is all but demolished by a graphic reminder of the treatment actually meted out to Catholic Englishmen returning to their homeland, so different from that experienced by the play’s Joculus / Ergastes (2728ff.). In retrospect, the happy ending is shown to be artificial and unconvincing.
2. It is easy to see in Archophylax a comic equivalent of King James. Like James, he is devoted to entertainments and diversions (1351), and he dotes on his jester Joculus no less than James did on Archie Armstrong and Davy Drummond. Like James, he lives in London and controls the Tower, in which he is willing to imprison Religion in preparation for her execution, out of a misguided belief that this is in the national interest (his speech at 2327ff. is the passage that goes the farthest in exploring his motivations). And he is not without a brutal side. The play’s essential wish is therefore simple to decipher: would that James could be won over to a policy of toleration as easily as Archophylax is won over by Joculus / Ergastes! Given this equation, the reader is entitled to wonder whether the play should be read as some kind of allegory. Can, for example, the members of Archophylax’ council be identified as prominent personalities in James’ Court? Or, failing that, can they be identified as lay-figures for contemporary English institutions? I, for one, do not think any such interpretation is possible. Three of the council members, to be sure, are clerics, and at least one of them, Simulus, is obviously intended as a comic stage-Puritan (another stock character in contemporary English drama). But, according to any such reading, what exactly would the other two be supposed to parody? The Church of England, to be sure, placed greater value on the learning of its clergy than on their spirituality, and one might be tempted to regard Cento, who (true to his name) only speaks by stitching together poetic quotations, as a parody of empty learning among the clergy. But it is difficult to imagine Jesuits, of all people, poking fun at clergymen for enjoying the benefit of a Humanistic education, and it seems likelier that Cento is meant to burlesque the technique by which Englishmen were taught to compose Latin verse, by likewise stitching together snippets from the Latin poets. NOTE 1 But the decisive reason for ruling out any such allegorizing interpretation is the presence on Archophylax’ council of Callio and Diagoras, a stereotypical comic lawyer and a physician. Accordingly, much of the humor surrounding these characters is rather routinized, and they are given no particularized traits that would invite us to regard them as representing something specific in contemporary Protestant England.
3. This does not mean that Captiva Religio is lacking in humor at the expense of English Protestants. Prurio and Simulus are quite frank in stating their view that a pastor’s main job is to fleece his flock (844f.). Then too, Simulus is characterized as a Puritan (as is shown, for example, by the kind of language he is made to speak in II.iii), and much is made of the hypocrisy of the three clergymen when they sneak off to engage in dancing while disguised as satyrs, silly and more than a little subhuman, always being careful not to be spotted by their congregations lest they be a source of scandal (1013ff.), at the beginning of Act III. The humor in this situation is strikingly similar to that of Robert Ward’s 1623 Cambridge comedy Fucus sive Histriomastix, in which the equally hypocritical Puritan Fucus furtively indulges in his absurd prinkum-prankum dance. Is it out of the question that Ward had seen a copy of Captiva Religio? Or did both comic writers get the idea from some common source? It is in any event interesting to see a Catholic and an orthodox Anglican adopting the same comedic strategy for satirizing Puritanism.
4. On the basis of archival records it is known that Captiva Religio was performed at the English College in 1614. NOTE 2 This was witnessed by the Italian spy Frederico Gotardi, who found the five-hour performance tedious, although he felt bound to admit the quality of acting was good. NOTE 3 He reported that at the back of stage was represented as a dungeon filled with Catholic prisoners, with the word CAPTIVA written above in gold letters on a red background, and that one of the actors in the play (presumably the one who played Joculus) was a former comedian for King James, notable for his leaping ability. Unfortunately, Gotardi did not record his name.
5. The play is preserved in two manuscripts, for the purposes of this edition designated respectively as A and B: 1.) English College (Rome) Archives MS. 321, fols. 123r - 176r, and 2.) English College (Rome) Archives MS. C17 (iv). A is a neat, formal copy presumably executed specifically for preservation of the play in the College library, and is complete with a dramatis personae list, formal title, and contains the Prologue and a copious set of stage directions. B, which lacks these elements (save for a very few stage directions), is a private copy, evidently executed in such haste that some pages degenerate into a barely legible scrawl. The consideration that these manuscripts are written in different styles and were intended to serve different purposes, however, does not suffice to conceal the fact that they are written by the same man. For diagnostic purposes, the appearance of such details as a peculiar left-facing flourish at the top of the capital A, and another idiosyncratic flourish at the foot of the lower case p and q, in both manuscripts serve to establish this beyond doubt.
6. Elsewhere I have provided a comprehensive description of MS. 321, which collects within one set of boards the texts of seven plays written and produced at the English College in the second decade of the seventeenth century: besides Captiva Religio it contains the 1612 tragedy - intermedium pairing Thomas Morus and Vulpinus, the 1613 pairing Thomas Cantuariensis and Minutum, and an undated tragedy - intermedium pairing, which I believe was produced in 1618, Roffensis and Somnium, this last item being only partially preserved in the manuscript and therefore not included in the Philological Museum. The manuscript is written in two hands, call them A and B. Vulpinus, Thomas Cantuariensis, Minutum, and the Act V of Roffensis are written by A, the remainder by B, and B has supplied all the stage directions for the texts copied by A. If we adopt the principle that a copied text free of errors, or at most containing only a few slips of the pen, is an author’s holograph, but that a text with plenty of errors or other transcriptional problems is a copy text, then it is possible to say that copyist A was the author of the intermedia Vulpinus and Minutum, and that copyist B wrote Captiva Religio and Somnium (this individual was also responsible for all marginal stage directions throughout the manuscript). Thomas Cantuariensis and Thomas Morus are the work of a third playwright, and Roffensis was written by a fourth.
7. While the texts of most plays contained in MS. 321 are suitably formal, that of Thomas Morus is not. It has been worked over repeatedly by the individual identified as copyist B: at one stage a number of lines have been rewritten, and then at a later time he went through the play marginally marking a large number of lines for deletion (that these processes were done separately is shown by the fact that some passages are both rewritten and marked for deletion). A peculiarity of B’s working method was that in making his deletions he was willing to leave a number of lines incomplete. Our text of Thomas Cantuariensis is a fair copy, but it shows telltale signs of having been subject to the same treatment: several lines are incomplete and a couple of characters are included in the dramatis personae list who do not appear in the play itself. It therefore looks as if what we have is a fair copy made by copyist A of a text that had been revised and shortened by B. At this point it should probably be added that, because of his willingness to impose his alterations on the works of other authors, and perhaps also because he supplied the stage directions for all the plays in the set, it looks as if B may have had some supervisory responsibility for dramatic productions at the College during the period covered by the manuscript (this has been suggested by Chambers, who described him as a “producer”). NOTE 4
8. With these facts in mind, we may now turn to Captiva Religio. While, as already stated, A is a fair copy of the original text, the text of B has been subject to precisely the same process of revision as Thomas Morus and also (as I have suggested) of Thomas Cantuariensis, although of course in the present case there is one significant difference: the small number of transcriptional errors points to the conclusion that in Captiva Religio we have a case of an author revising his own work. When I describe the process as precisely the same, I mean, first, that it occurred in two stages, since some passages are first rewritten and latterly marked for deletion (1416ff. is an illustrative case in point — first the author added a couple of lines, later he decided to eliminate the entire passage), and second, that in making these deletions the author was not unduly worried about leaving some lines incomplete.
9. Although the texts of Thomas Morus and Captiva Religio have been handled the same way, it is important to appreciate significant differences. Changes introduced in the text of Thomas Morus are made for three clearly intelligible reasons. In the first place, the play’s length is shortened by about ten percent. Second, the importance of one of the play’s characters, John More, has been drastically reduced. Third, most of the vocal and instrumental music has been eliminated. A note in the manuscript records that Thomas Morus was produced three times, and it seems highly likely that it was altered for a revival performance when an actor competent to play the original role of John More was lacking and when the original musical resources were no longer available. We do not have the original, undoctored text of Thomas Cantuariensis, but in view of archival testimony to a 1617 revival performance, it is reasonable to speculate that “copyist B” made his revisions to suit the exigencies of that occasion. The revisions he introduced into Captiva Religio, however, show no similar signs of purposefulness. Set in the balance against the numerous passages marked for deletion are a large number of newly-inserted lines, so that the overall shortening effect is not nearly as appreciable as in Thomas Morus. The play could stand plenty of serious rewriting: it strikes a modern reader, at least, as over-long (no doubt because it was meant to consume about the same length of time in performance as would be taken by a tragedy - intermedium pairing), and the plot does not acquire much forward momentum until Act III, since large portions of Acts I and II are devoted to little more than comical clowning. But although radical surgery may be in order, B’s changes really change very little. This sense of general purposelessness in B’s revisions is probably explicable by the fact that there is no evidence for a revival performance of Captiva Religio: while this individual had immediate and practical reasons for revising Thomas Morus and Thomas Cantuariensis, in this case he appears to have been doing little more than indulging in some after-the-fact tinkering. For this reason, the present version is based on the A text, although B’s changes are noted in the apparatus criticus.
10. Once again, I must thank my Institute colleague Martin Wiggins for placing at my disposal photographic copies of both manuscripts.
NOTE 1 For this method cf. T. W. Baldwin, William Shakspere’s Small Latine & Lesse Greeke (Urbana, 1944), II.380 - 416.
NOTE 2 Suzanne, Gossett, “Drama in the English College, Rome, 1591 - 1660,” English Literary Renaissance 3 (1973) p. 91.
NOTE 3 Public Record Offices, State Papers Foreign, Italian States and Rome: 84/5/101, summarized by John P. Fiel, Sir Tobie Matthew and his Collection of Letters” (diss. Chicago, 1962) 78, and by Alison Shell, Catholicism, Controversy and the English Literary Imagination, 1558 - 1660 (Cambridge, 1999) 190.
NOTE 4 Edmund K. Chambers, The Elizabethan Stage (Oxford, 1967) II.206.