1. The hostile reaction of Edinburgh’s Kirk session to the visiting English players in November 1599 has often been taken as evidence that post-Reformation Scotland was entirely inimical to drama. This erroneous impression is strengthened by the paucity of surviving evidence for the cultivation of dramatic performance. Printing came late and fitfully to Scotland, and even so, print-runs were often very small. Manuscripts (of all kinds, literary or otherwise) had a whole range of challenges to outface, from the Scottish climate, the teeth of Caledonian rodents and sheer indifference on the part of posterity, to destructive military action, including several English invasions (from Hertford’s in the 1540s to Cromwell’s in 1650) and repeated waves of Reforming iconoclasm from the 1540s to 1689. Today, Ane Satyre of the Thrie Estaitis by the courtier, herald, ambassador and poet Sir David Lyndsay [d, 1555] stands as a well nigh unique textual witness to pre-Reformation Scotland’s clearly vibrant theatrical culture; it was first printed in 1603, but George Bannatyne copied a manuscript text of large parts of the play in the late 1560’s (his other works had been issued in a single volume at Edinburgh as early as 1568). Lynsday’s scathingly voiced anti-papal, anti-purgatorial stance meant that the triumphant Reformed Kirk was able to claim the poet and dramatist as one of their own, and his works were hastened into print — even though Lyndsay had in fact never formally abjured his Catholic faith. However, the new reformed Kirk, despite its later hostility, did not immediately abjure theatrical representations after the Calvinist Reformation of 1559 - 1560. Calvinism was not inherently opposed to drama, as is demonstrated by the great corpus of drama by French Huguenots and Dutch Calvinists, and indeed Abraham sacrificiant by Calvin’s lieutenant and successor in Geneva, Théodore de Bèze (Beza). In fact, while so very few Scottish play texts or even references to performances have survived, the extant records are more than enough to indicate that drama took a long time to die, despite the puritanical Kirk’s developing dislike of it. From the court of Mary Queen of Scots in 1567, there is a neo-Plautine vernacular comedy, Philotus. NOTE 1 Other extant texts are The Navigatioun by James’s maister-poet Alexander Montgomerie, a prologue to a Christmas masque written for court performance in 1579, and the incomplete script of a masque written by the king himself for the wedding of his favourite the Earl of Huntly. NOTE 2 In terms of lost playscripts attested to by the records, we know that the minister Patrick Auchinleck was allowed to perform a play of “The Forlorn Son” in St Andrews in August 1574. Though in 1575, the General Assembly of the Kirk would ban “clerk plays” and “comedies and tragedies made of the canonical scriptures,” non-scriptural plays would be permitted for years to come. A play by the sternly protestant Robert Sempill had been performed for the Regent Moray in Edinburgh in 1568, and another at St Andrews, by the equally protestant poet and future minister John Davidson, who “maid a play at the mariage of Mr Jhone Colvin … playit in Mr Knox presence” in July 1571. Another play at St Andrews, author unknown, was seen by King James on 29 July 1580. Also from James VI’s adult reign, we have a play by Robert Sempill performed in 1581, while the schoolmaster Alexander Hume produced an anti-papist play at Edinburgh in 1598. NOTE 3
2. With regard to theatrical texts in Latin, the documentary record shows that Renaissance Scotland was fully aware of the importance of studying both Terence and Plautus at school, alongside the colloquies of Erasmus and Mathurin Cordier. The dramatic polemical “dialogues” produced by Scottish writers, in both Scots and Latin, show that they had learned how to write theatrically. Andrew Boyd, minister of Eaglesham and from 1613 Bishop of Argyll, not only made a fine verse translation of Lucian’s tenth Dialogue of the Dead, but throughout his career made lavish reference to the dramatic art in his sermons. It may well be the case that there was little or even no tradition of performing plays in Latin at Scotland's five ancient universities (St Andrews, Glasgow, King's College in Old Aberdeen, the Tounis College of Edinburgh and Marischal College in New Aberdeen) due to their small size and extreme poverty. Further, there seems to have been no support for the idea that the performing of of plays had educational value in itself (a point of pedagogical theory which can be documented for contemporary England NOTE 4 and that inspired a requirement that plays be performed at all Jesuit educational establishments). But there were certainly Latin-language theatrical performances associated with the Court and Crown,From the reign of Mary, Queen of Scots, there survive the little set of masques by George Buchanan for her marriage to Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, and for the baptism of their son, the future James VI. Contemporary Danish translations survive of the various Latin interludes written by Hercules Rollock, rector of Edinburgh’s High School which were performed during Queen Anna’s joyeuse entrée into Edinburgh on 19 May 1590. However, although Latin appears to have been the main language featured in the indoor celebrations surrounding the August 1594 baptism of Prince Henry Frederick in Stirling Castle, it is not at all sure that any of the ‘interludes’ featured involved quasi-dramatic texts. NOTE 5
3. Both before and after the Scottish Reformation of 1559 - 60, many Scottish graduates went abroad to pursue further study, and a good number found employment overseas as professors, schoolmasters, and private tutors. Some of those employed in France wrote plays for performance by their students. The best known pre-Reformation example is George Buchanan, who both wrote original plays (Jeptha, Baptistes) and Latin translations of Greek originals (Euripides’ Medea and Alcestis). NOTE 6 Another, much later example was Thomas Dempster [1579 - 1625], who wrote four or perhaps five plays, Maximilianus, possibly a separate Maximilianus tragicomoedia, Stilico, Jacobus I Scotiae Rex, and Decemviratus Abrogatus. Of these only the last, acted at some college of the Université de Paris in 1613, survives, and is available in The Philological Museum.
4. A third Scottish dramatist who worked in France was William Hegat or Hegate [d. 1621]. NOTE 7 Glasgow-born and educated, in 1598 Hegate was teaching Arts at the Collège de Puygarreau, one of the nine university colleges at Poiters prior to its takeover by the Jesuits and merger with other colleges in 1607. NOTE 8 His Gallia Victrix was performed at the Collège on 8 August 1598, and issued by the press of Antoine Mesnier (who described himself on the title page as Printer to the King, and elsewere also as Printer to the University) later in the same year.
5. In trying to understand Gallia Victrix we are immediately confronted by the problem of the work’s genre. Obviously, it is a performative work, and indeed a statement at the front of the published text reports the circumstances of its production. With reference to nomenclature when discussing Elizabeth court revels and theatrical productions, W. R. Streitberger observes that “the term ‘mask’ is notoriously ambiguous…Terms used to describe entertainments with substantial portions of dialogue were no more consistent. Play, interlude, history, comedy, tragedy, and story are used indiscriminately by observers to describe the same entertainments…The lack of precision in generic terms calls attention to a fundamental fact about Elizabethan plays, masks, triumphs and revels in general. Their idea of genre was flexible and inclusive, not definitive and exclusive, as ours is.” NOTE 9 Streitberger’s observation applies equally to Renaissance France. But while these remarks may be applicable to vernacular masques and similar subdramatic performance pieces written in the vernacular, it seems questionable whether they are valid for Latin works. In contemporary Latin, the word used to designate a masque was pompa (“parade”), and seemingly was always used for one of those masques (such as those by George Buchanan noted above) where one character comes on stage, delivers his piece, and then exits to make way for the next. Then too, its five-act structure makes it doubtful that we should identify Gallia Victrix as a masque, even though it has a rudimentary narrative and features occasional dialogic interaction between characters). NOTE 10 Its length (just under 1700 lines) seems appropriate for a full-blown play rather than a masque or similar minor performance piece, and yet one hesitates to call it a play because of its static, undramatic, and highly rhetorical nature (in his O. D. N. B. article Mark Dilworth called it a “dramatic dialogue”). The word “pageant” seems intolerably vague, applying it to our work would be a way of dodging the question rather than solving it.
6. The Philological Museum already contains another performative piece, Sors Caesarea, produced at St. John’s College, Oxford, evidently in 1646 (preserved by Bodleian ms. Tanner 306, fols. 149 - 162), in which the Muses, under the guidance of Philomusus, are searching for the missing Polydorus. Calliope initially proposes looking in the places he properly belongs – the various abodes of the Muses. Philomusus assures her that the territory is already well trodden, and indeed she cannot find Polydorus anywhere in Helicon. So she and her fellow Muses dedicate themselves instead to making a laurel wreath in his honour, using materials supplied by the Graces: laurel leaves, plus jewels and flowers to ornament it. The Dryads are sent to take it to Elysium and present it to Polydorus if they should find him there. Meanwhile the Muses set about delivering his memorial elegy. Calliope is crying too much, so the task falls mainly to Clio, with the others adding their words of praise afterwards. The Dryads come back and one of them recounts at length their journey to Hell and the monsters they met on the way, Proserpina gave them a conducted tour of the underworld, excluding Limbo and Purgatory, which are mere fictions perpetrated by “Jesuit fraud.” (Apparently her husband Pluto has been spreading stories about the existence of such places as bait to catch souls for his dominions: believe in Purgatory and you’ll end up in Hell.) In Elysium they met Homer and asked after “our Palinurus” – the story is being inflected in terms of Aeneas’ trip to Hades in Book VI of the Aeneid – and Homer gave them some peculiar and circuitous directions to where Polydorus may now be found, However, there has been a disagreement among the gods about what to do with his body, and Jupiter appointed a council to determine the matter, In the meantime, the Dryads are to tell the Muses that Apollo has concealed the body at “the place where the twin-peaked mountain strikes the sky” — in other words, Parnassus. Just as the Muses are getting a search party together, a messenger arrives with an invitation to a birthday feast to be held by the supervisor (praefectus) whom Apollo has placed in charge of Helicon: not Polydorus, as Clio hopes, but one Huparcus, The Muses duly make their way back to Helicon, where they see Polydorus sitting on the mountain with his back to them, Calliope tries to wake him, but their grief is renewed when they realize that he is not asleep, but dead, They remove the body for honourable burial, but the play closes with Apollo’s angry rebuke to them: “ Let this man return to the light of day; he is destined never to perish in any age of the world.” In all probability, “Polydorus” is Archbishop William Laud, a previous President of St. John’s College, and the whole thing invites reading as a Royalist lament for his execution in 1645.
7. In several ways Sors Caesarea invites comparison with Gallia Victrix. It too defies classification and one searches in vain for an illuminating descriptive term, since it is performative without being dramatic, and is equally rhetorical and static. It too is polymetric, containing a number of inserted lyric passages, some or all of which may or may not have been meant to have musical settings. Both works consist of a meditation on contemporary historical events, highly mythologized because (in a manner not entirely unlike Milton’s poem on the Fifth of November and similar neo-Latin works dealing with the Gunpowder Plot) their authors used such a treatment as a tool for getting at the underlying significance of these events rather than becoming preoccupied with the surface play of historical facts (about which, after all, contemporary audiences required no instruction). The only way in which Sors Caesarea fails to resemble Gallia Victrix closely is that it lacks the latter’s considerable length (it comprises only a comparatively modest 670 lines). The idea that the author of Sors Caesarea could have taken any kind of inspiration from a provincial French production preserved in an equally provincial publication issued several decades earlier seems unlikely in the extreme. What may not be impossible, however, is that both authors were imitating the same earlier model, some piece we have not been able to identify. Further research may prove illuminating
8. May 1598 had recently witnessed the second stage of an important turning-point in French history, the signing of the Treaty of Vervins between representatives of Henri IV and Philip II, which ended the war between France and Spain. This set the seal on a development that had already occurred in April of the same year, the issuance of the Edict of Nantes, which had guaranteed tolerance and something approaching equal civic rights to the Huguenots. Between them, the Edict and the Treaty had the effect of putting an end to the French Wars of Religion, an intermittent series of violent clashes between Catholics and Protestants which had been tearing France apart since 1562. Then too, the Treaty (which was virtually a Spanish capitulation) had the effect of removing the international aspect of French internal strife. The purpose of Gallia Victrix, obviously, is to celebrate this new dispensation and (probably just as important) to win over whatever members of the audience were not fully prepared to abandon long-standing hostilities, by emphasizing the advantages of peace — the new dispensation is described in the traditional terms of Golden Age literature — and appealing to the spectators’ French patriotism. This second purpose probably serves to explain Hegate’s choice of what otherwise might seem an odd strategy: adopting a policy of extreme vagueness. With the exception of a single allusion to King Henri at 1424, there is no mention of any events or personalities of modern French history, and everything (other than references to the Spanish troops which the Ligue had brought in) NOTE 11 is couched in mythologized, and therefore entirely abstract, terms. One likely benefit of Hegate’s decision was surely to avoid offending any man present, thereby rekindling dormant sectarian hostilities, thereby inducing as many spectators as possible to embrace this new epoch of tolerant reconciliation. Specificity would have run the risk of being counterproductive.
9. Above we wrote that a heavily mythologized treatment of historical occurrences can be employed as “as a tool for getting at the underlying significance of these events rather than becoming preoccupied with the surface play of historical facts.” If there is any truth in this observation, at least when applied to Gallia Victrix, then we should be able to decipher what interpretation Hegate was trying to place on the Edict of Nantes and the Treaty of Vervins by adopting this mythologizing tactic. We would suggest that in essence he was seeking to make two key points. The first was a radical reorientation in moral values. During the Wars of Religion, the use of militance and violence in the cause of whichever side one belonged to was deemed to be laudable and righteous. Hegate’s work firmly and repeatedly represents sectarian violence of any and all kinds to be both a product and a sign of moral corruption. Peace can only be achieved, and France can only be rescued from its predicament, by repenting the old values of that underpinned the Wars and submitting to a moral and spiritual reform. In the context of the ongoing international struggle between Catholicism and Protestantism in the sixteenth century, the idea that such reform was necessary was truly revolutionary, and as such is an eloquent literary expression of Henri IV’s ideals. NOTE 12 Hegate’s second point marches in the same direction on the level of religion. As opposed to the epics of Homer and Vergil, in which the gods individually choose what mortal side to support, and then interfere in the action to advance the cause of that side, at the expense of the other, in Gallia Victrix all the gods, even Mars, are firmly supportive of this new order of toleration, moral reform, and national reunification. Hegate’s gods are, to be sure, the traditional ones of the Graeco-Roman pantheon, but it requires no great feat of imagination to translate his religious message into Christian terms: he is proposing a new and equally revolutionary Christian theodicy to match the drastically altered political circumstances of 1598, according to which toleration, reconciliation and French unity are most pleasing in the sight of God, whereas sectarian partisanship and civil war are merely sinful.
8. One further point needs to be made, about the printed volume itself. Hegate himself was a Catholic, but at least one of the contributors of gratulatory epigrams that start the book, John Matheson (who proudly identifies himself as a fellow Scotsman) was very conspicuously a Protestant, being Principal of the Collège de Nérac, a Protestant institution. Thus some of the book’s paratextual material serves to illustrate the theme of reconciliation that permeates the work itself.
NOTE 1 See J. Reid Baxter, “Philotus: the Transmission of a Delectable Treatise,.” in T.v an Heijnsbergen and N.Royan (edd.), Literature, Letters and the Canonical in Early Modern Scotland (East Linton, 2002), pp. 52 - 68.
NOTE 2 See Poems of Alexander Montgomerie, ed. David J Parkinson (Edinburgh, 2000), I.90 - 97, and Poems of James VI of Scotland, ed. James Craigie, (Edinburgh, 1955 - 58), II.134 - 44.
NOTE 3 For Sempill’s plays, see Anna J Mill’s introduction to Philotus in the Scottish Text Society, Miscellany Volume (Edinburgh, 1933), p. 85; for the St Andrews plays, see The Autobiography and Diary of Mr James Melvill, ed. R. Pitcairn (Edinburgh, 1842), pp. 27 and 81. On p. 28 Melvill mentions that when he graduated Bachelor of Arts in 1573, this was marked “according to the solemnities then used of declamations, banqueting and playes.”
NOTE 5 William Fowler’s True Reportarie ... of the Baptisme (Edinburgh, 1594) gives a detailed account of the various events, but the only actual text given is a set of fourteen Latin hexameter lines, sung by “voices” with “‘viols in plaine counterpoint.” See here.
NOTE 7 See the biographical article by Mark Dilworth in the O. D. N. B. with references cited, and also John Durkan, “Miscellany,” The Innes Review 4 (1953) 118f. and “A Post-Reformation Miscellany II,” The Innes Review 55 (2004) 52 - 72. For information about members of Hegate’s family see here.
Hegate was a rather prolific writer. Some of his works include Recidivae Athenae (Poitiers, 1596, copy in Edinburgh University Library), Philomathes (Paris, 1600, copy in Bodleian Library), Paedagogiae liber primus et Galliarum Delphini genethliacon (Paris, 1603, copy in Bodleian Library), De ritu Maiumae orationes duae (Nantes, 1604, copy in Mitchell Library, Glasgow), De Lampade Burdigalensi: Oratio habita in aula majore aquitanica sexto kalend. decemb. 1606 (Bordeaux, 1607, copy in Bibl. Municipale, Aix), Ludovico et Annae…et Mariae reginae matri Capitulatio sive Amnestia (Bordeaux, 1616, copies in Bibl. Nationale Française and British Library, which in their catalogues substitute Gratulatio for Capitulatio. There are also liminary verses, generally very short, in various French publications by authors both Scots and French. Fuller lists of his poetic output are provided by Durkan and by R. P. H. Green et al., Scottish Latin Authors in Print up to 1700 (Supplementa Humanistica Lovaniensia, Louvain, 2012), but these lists are not entirely in agreement.
NOTE 8 During this period Poitiers harbored quite a few Scotsmen: see Jean Plattard, “Scottish Masters and Students at Poitiers in the Second Half of the Sixteenth Century,” S. H. R. 21 (1924) 82 - 86, Steven J. Reid, Humanism and Calvinism: Andrew Melville and the Universities of Scotland (Farnham, U. K., 2013) 65f. and also Catherine Magnien-Simonin, “Poitiers, 1588: Thomas Bicarton ou du droit pour un Ecossais d'être un poète français,” Albineana, Cahiers d'Aubigné 6 (1995) 71 - 98.
NOTE 10 Acts IV and V appear to contain two scenes apiece, although it may be possible to regard each of them as consisting of a single scene prefaced by a masque rather than as containing two scenes of the normal academic kind.
NOTE 12 As Hegate would have been fully aware, there had been serious, systematic moves made in this direction by the pacific James VI and the Kirk, working together to achieve a moral reformation by stamping out the Scottish tradition of blood feud, the theological argument being that the only blood that should matter in a Christian commonwealth is the saving blood of Christ’s reconciliatory sacrifice to appease the wrath of the Father, not the shedding of blood over the honour of family bloodlines. Again, Hegate’s message, should it have reached the king, would have fallen on ready ears.