the Annotated Popular Edition of



by Robert Greene

c. 1590


Featuring complete and easy-to-read annotations.

Annotations and notes © Copyright ElizabethanDrama.org, 2018
This annotated play may be freely copied and distributed.




King Henry The Third.

     Robert Greene's Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay may be

     Edward, Prince Of Wales, his Son.

thought of as a companion-play to Christopher Marlowe's

     Ralph Simnell, The King’s Fool.

Doctor Faustus: the protagonist in each drama is a sorcerer

Lacy, Earl Of Lincoln.

who conjures devils and impresses audiences with great

Warren, Earl Of Sussex.

feats of magic. Friar Bacon is, however, a superior and

Ermsby, a Gentleman.

much more interesting play, containing as it does the

secondary plot of Prince Edward and his pursuit of the fair

Friar Bacon.

maiden Margaret. Look out also for the appearance of one

     Miles, Friar Bacon’s Poor Scholar.

of Elizabethan drama's most famous stage props, the giant

Friar Bungay.

talking brass head.

Emperor of Germany.


King of Castile.

     Princess Elinor, Daughter to the King of Castile.

     The text of the play is adapted primarily from the 1876

Jaques Vandermast, A German Magician.

edition of Greene's plays edited by Alexander Dyce, but in

some cases I reinstated the language of the original 1594

Doctors of Oxford:

quarto which Dyce, generally a very careful editor, changed.





     Mentions made in the annotations of Dyce, Ward,

Lambert, a Gentleman.

Collins, Seltzer and Nimmo refer to the commentary of these

     1st Scholar, Lambert's Son.

scholars in their editions of our play. Mention of Sugden

Serlsby, a Gentleman.

refers to the entries in his valuable Topographical

     2nd Scholar, Serlsby's Son.


     The most commonly cited sources are listed in the


footnotes immediately below. The complete list of footnotes

     Margaret, the Keeper’s Daughter.

appears at the end of this play.

Thomas, a Clown.

     Footnotes in the text correspond as follows:

Richard, a Clown.

     1. Oxford English Dictionary (OED) online.

Hostess of The Bell at Henley

     2. Crystal, David and Ben. Shakespeare's Words.

Joan, a Country Wench.

London; New York: Penguin, 2002.

     3. Dyce, Alexander. The Works of Christopher Marlowe.


London: George Routledge and Sons, 1876.

A Post.

     4. Ward, Adolphus William, ed. Old English Dramas,

Select Plays. Oxford: The Clarendon press, 1892.

Spirit in the shape of Hercules.

     5. Collins, J. Churton. The Plays and Poems of Robert

A Devil.

Greene. Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1905.

     6. Seltzer, Daniel. Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay.

Lords, Clowns, etc.

Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1963.

     7. Nimmo, William P. The Works of the British

Dramatists. Edinburgh: Murray and Gibb, 1870.

     8. Dickinson, Thomas H. Robert Greene. London: T.

Fisher Unwin, 1909?.

     9. Sugden, Edward. A Topographical Dictionary to 

the Works of Shakespeare and His Fellow Dramatists.

Manchester: The University Press, 1925.

     15. Henke, James T. Courtesans and Cuckolds. New

York: Garland Publishing, 1979.


A. Greene's Source For the Play.

     Greene's source for the Friar Bacon plotline was a storybook written sometime in the late 16th century, The Famous History of the Learned Friar Bacon. This fable includes most of the major elements appearing in our play relating to Bacon's magic and household, including his contest with the German magician Vandermast, his servant Miles, and the famous Brazen (brass) Head.

     This source is referred to simply as the History in the annotations.


B. The Real Friar Bacon

     Roger Bacon (1214?-1294) was a real English philosopher, cleric and writer. A great student of science and knowledge, Bacon studied at Oxford, then relocated to Paris, where tradition has it that he taught at the university. He returned to England and Oxford as a resident scholar from 1250; at some point he ran into trouble with the monks of the Franciscan order, which he is surmised to have joined somewhere along the line (hence the appellation Friar Bacon), though details are lacking. The Franciscans sent him back to Paris in 1257, and he was kept under restraint for a decade, unable to work or even write. The appointment of Clement IV, who seems to have held in Bacon in favour, as pope in 1265 allowed Bacon to escape his restrictions; he returned to Oxford in 1268.

    Bacon went on to write extensively, eventually completing an encyclopedic summary of all the knowledge of the 13th century. From 1278 Bacon once again entered a period of confinement, condemned by the Franciscans for some of his writings which criticized the church, yet the exact length of his imprisonment is unclear. After his release, he returned yet again to Oxford, where he was believed to have died in about 1294.

     During his career, Bacon was believed to have dabbled in alchemy, and perhaps even the black arts, and it was in these fields that his reputation grew, unfortunately overshadowing, really occluding completely, his contributions to knowledge and science for several centuries.

     A student of Aristotle, Roger Bacon was one of the earliest European proponents of experimental research. His writings are also notable for including detailed descriptions for the production of gunpowder, and fanciful proposals for the development of motorized vehicles and flying machines.38

The information in the first three paragraphs of this article was adapted from the Encyclopedia Britannica of 1911 and the Dictionary of National Biography, published 1885-1900.




by Robert Greene

c. 1590


Near Framlingham.

The Scene: the town of Framlingham, located 87 miles north-east of London, is in the county of Suffolk; the original edition of Friar Bacon wrote the name as Fremingham.
     Note that the earliest editions did not include scene locations; I have adopted those suggested by Ward.
     Friar Bacon was not divided into Acts; I have kept the traditional division of the play into 16 scenes.

Enter Prince Edward, malcontented, with Lacy, Warren, Ermsby and Ralph Simnell.

Entering Characters: Prince Edward (c.1239-1307) is the Prince of Wales, the eldest son and heir to Henry III of England. Lacy and Warren are the Earls of Lincoln and Sussex respectively, Ermsby is a gentleman, and Ralph Simnell is the royal family's jester.


Lacy.  Why looks my lord like to a troubled sky

1ff: the earls, with Ermsby, speak apart, as the clearly
     unhappy Edward broods alone.
         like to = like.


When Heaven's bright shine is shadowed with a fog?

2: ie. "such as when the brightness of the sky or sun is
     obscured (shadowed) by fog?"

Alate we ran the deer, and through the lawnds

3-5: "we just (alate) hunted deer, and across the clearings


Stripped with our nags the lofty frolic bucks

     (lawnds) outran (stripped) with our horses the proud

That scudded 'fore the teasers like the wind:

     (lofty) and playful (frolic) bucks that ran swiftly
     (scudded) in front of the hunting hounds (teasers, or
     teisers) like the wind."1


Ne'er was the deer of merry Fressingfield

6: Ne'er was = "never before were".
         merry Fressingfield = Fressingfield is a village in the
     county of Suffolk in the East of England, situated nine
     miles north of Framlingham and about a dozen miles
     from the North Sea. The adjective merry means simply
     "pleasant". Greene uses the phrase merry Fressingfield
     nine times in our play.

So lustily pulled down by jolly mates,

7: "so agreeably or vigorously successfully hunted (pulled
) by such high-spirited companions".


Nor shared the farmers such fat venison,

8: the royal hunters turned over their game to the local
     population; the ban on hunting in royal forests by parties
     not sanctioned by the king was strictly enforced, though
     penalties for violators tended to be in the nature of fines
     rather than physical punishment.37

So frankly dealt, this hundred years before;

9: "so generously (frankly)1 bestowed, not for the last
     hundred years."


Nor have

I seen my lord more frolic in the chase,

= joyful.  = a hunt.


And now changed to a melancholy dump.

= state of low feelings or depression.


Warr.  After the prince got to the Keeper's lodge,

= the Keeper refers to the gamekeeper of the royal forest.

And had been jocund in the house awhile,

= cheerful.  = ie. the Keeper's lodge.


Tossing off ale and milk in country cans,

= heartily drinking.1  = from rustic drinking vessels.

Whether it was the country's sweet content,

17-20: Warren speculates as to the reason for the prince's
     gloomy mood.
         country's sweet content = a feeling of pleasing
     satisfaction from being in the country.


Or else the bonny damsel filled us drink

= beautiful.1  = ie. who poured or served.

That seemed so stately in her stammel red,

= dignified.1  = red-dyed clothes; stammel originally
     referred to a coarse cloth of wool,1 but came to be
     synonymous with the colour red, so stammel red is
     technically redundant.5


Or that a qualm did cross his stomach then,

= nausea.

But straight he fell into his passiöns.

= immediately.  = affliction.1


Erms.  Sirrah Ralph, what say you to your master,

23-24: Ermsby addresses the prince's jester, Ralph; sirrah


Shall he thus all amort live malcontent?

was a common term of address towards one's inferiors.
     Ermsby is a fictional creation: in fact, the name itself seems not to appear anywhere else in early English letters. Our Ermsby is a gentleman, a rank or status situated immediately below that of noble.
     amort (line 24) = dejected.3


Ralph.  Hearest thou, Ned? − Nay, look if he will

26: Ralph addresses Edward, calling him Ned. When the

speak to me!

prince does not respond, Ralph turns and speaks to the


     26ff: as the king's jester, Ralph has a great deal of license to speak and say things to the prince (and by extension to his companions) that no other individual could get away with, including calling him Ned (a nickname for Edward, formed by the abbreviation of the affectionate appellation "mine Edward"), addressing him with the informal thou and the familiar sirrah, and generally presuming to tease Edward as he pleases.
     Note that Ralph only speaks in prose; in Elizabethan drama, fools are usually denied the dignity of speaking in iambic pentameter.
     In the original editions, Ralph was written as Raphe, based on its pronunciation; but later editors generally employ Ralph.

Pr. Edw.   What say'st thou to me, fool?


Ralph.  I prithee, tell me, Ned, art thou in love with

= alternate form of "I pray thee", ie. "please".


the Keeper's daughter?


Pr. Edw.   How if I be, what then?


Ralph.  Why, then, sirrah, I'll teach thee how to

deceive Love.

= Love is personified; one can conceive of Love as Cupid,


     the boy-god who causes others to fall in love.

Pr. Edw.   How, Ralph?


Ralph.  Marry, Sirrah Ned, thou shall put on my cap

41: Marry = a common oath, used frequently in our play,


and my coat and my dagger, and I will put on thy

     particularly by Ralph and Friar Bacon's servant Miles.

clothes and thy sword; and so thou shalt be my fool.

         41-42: my cap and my coat = a jester's outfit usually


     included an outlandish cap (called a fool's-cap),
     sometimes adorned with bells, and multi-coloured
         my dagger (line 42) = a jester also sometimes carried
     a wooden sword or dagger.

Pr. Edw.   And what of this?


Ralph.  Why, so thou shalt beguile Love; for Love is

= in this way.  = deceive.


such a proud scab, that he will never meddle with

48: scab = scoundrel.2

fools nor children. Is not Ralph's counsel good, Ned?

         48-49: he will…children = by dressing as Ralph,
     Edward can avoid the attention of Love, who never
     condescends to bother with fools and children.


Pr. Edw.   Tell me, Ned Lacy, didst thou mark the maid,

51: Ned Lacy = while the Lacy clan held the earlship of
     Lincoln during Henry III's reign, none of the earls was
     named Edward. We many note it was rather unusual for 
     a dramatist to give two principal characters the same
     first name.
         mark = observe, notice.


How lovely in her country weeds she looked?

52: lovely = originally written as lively, but the editors
     generally are favourable to Dyce's emendation to lovely.
         weeds = clothing, apparel.

A bonnier wench all Suffolk cannot yield: −

= more attractive or splendid gal.  = Suffolk county, as 


All Suffolk! nay, all England holds none such.

     we have noted, is the county in which Fressingfield and

     Framlingham are situated.


Ralph.   Sirrah Will Ermsby, Ned is deceived.


Erms.  Why, Ralph?


Ralph.  He says all England hath no such, and I

say, and I'll stand to it, there is one better in

= ie. "stand by my position".



= another English county, located in central-England, due

     west of Suffolk.


Warren.  How provest thou that, Ralph?


Ralph.  Why, is not the abbot a learned man, and

= ie. the abbot of Warwickshire, but no particular individual
     has been identified.

hath read many books, and thinkest thou he hath not

67-68: thinkest…wench = on its face, "do you think the


more learning than thou to choose a bonny wench?

abbot, with his education, is not more qualified to identify a beautiful woman?", but this seems a rather lame interpretation. Seltzer persuasively argues the line is ruder, suggesting "don't you think the abbot, being more educated than you, is in proportion therefore more lecherous than you are?"

Yes, warrant I thee, by his whole grammar.

69: warrant I thee = "I assure you".


     by his whole grammar = "by his education", ie. "I swear on his education"; Ralph means this as an oath, by having the same generic meaning as "I swear on (something)".
     In the 14th century, the word grammar applied specifically to Latin grammar; as an educated man and cleric, the abbot would be well versed in Latin. James Henke, in his Courtesans and Cuckolds, sees a bawdy pun in this line between whole and hole (a woman's privates); the rest we leave to you.15

Erms.  A good reason, Ralph.


Pr. Edw.  I tell thee, Lacy, that her sparkling eyes


Do lighten forth sweet love's alluring fire;

= emit or flash out, like lightning.2

And in her tresses she doth fold the looks

= locks.  = hide, envelop.


Of such as gaze upon her golden hair:

= the sense is "those who".

Her bashful white, mixed with the morning's red,

77: Her bashful white = an allusion to Margaret's pale skin,
     a tone which was considered the epitome of beauty in
     this era.
         the morning's red = the ruddy colour of the dawn.
         The colours red and white were frequently paired in
     describing a woman's beauty: in Shakespeare's Twelfth
, for example, we find "'Tis beauty truly blent,
     whose red and white / Nature's own sweet and cunning
     hand laid on.


Luna doth boast upon her lovely cheeks;

= ie. "the moon proudly displays or reflects".

Her front is beauty's table, where she paints

= face.  = canvas.2  = ie. personified Beauty.


The glories of her gorgeous excellence.

Her teeth are shelves of precious margarites,

= (like) underwater ledges or banks.  = pearls.1


Richly enclosed with ruddy coral cleeves.

= cliffs of red coral, ie. her lips.

Tush, Lacy, she is beauty's over-match,

= she is superior to Beauty in beauty.


If thou survey'st her curious imagery.

= inspects or carefully observes.  = skilfully wrought form.


Lacy.  I grant, my lord, the damsel is as fair

As simple Suffolk's homely towns can yield.

= humble.2


But in the court be quainter dames than she,

= there are.  = more elegant or courtly.1,4

Whose faces are enriched with honour's taint,

89: "whose faces are made richer with the hue (taint, ie. tint)
     of noble rank".


Whose beauties stand upon the stage of fame,

90: the beauty of these women is known far and wide; a nice
     metaphor describing these attractive women as appearing
     on stage, as in a theatre, where they can be seen and
     appreciated by all.

And vaunt their trophies in the courts of love.

91: and brag about their amorous conquests.
         courts of love = legendary tribunals said to have
     existed in France in the Middle Ages, in which "lords
     and ladies" decided issues of "love and gallantry" (OED,
     court, n1, IV.11.e).


Pr. Edw.  Ah, Ned, but hadst thou watch'd her as myself,

= "as I did".


And seen the secret beauties of the maid,

= Ward suggests Edward is referring simply to Margaret's
     "domestic charms"; Seltzer suggests a rather more
     mysterious "less obvious charms".

Their courtly coyness were but foolery.

95: Edward dismisses the ladies of the court, critically


     describing the manner in which they feign modesty as
     foolish behaviour (or more specifically, "empty pretense"
     (Ward) or "flirtation" (Seltzer), as compared to the
     elegant shyness of Margaret.

Erms.  Why, how watched you her, my lord?


Pr. Edw.  Whenas she swept like Venus through the house,

= when.  = moved in a stately manner.1  = the goddess of


And in her shape fast folded up my thoughts,

100: "and I became absorbed in thinking about her good

Into the milk-house went I with the maid,

= dairy, store-room for milk.1


And there amongst the cream-bowls she did shine

As Pallas 'mongst her princely huswifery:

103: Margaret is compared to the goddess Athena or
     Minerva (Pallas being an alternative epithet), who was
     credited with the invention of every type of domestic
     work usually done by women, including the distinctively
     feminine arts of weaving and spinning.10
         huswifery = household stuffs.1


She turned her smock over her lily arms,

104: smock = a term applied generally to a woman's
     undergarment, but the sense here seems to be "apron".
         lily = pale white.

And dived them into milk to run her cheese;

105: ie. "and plunged her hands into the milk, in order to
     curdle (run) it into cheese.1


But whiter than the milk her crystal skin,

106: Edward is obsessed with the whiteness of Margaret's

Checkèd with lines of azure, made her blush

107: Checked with lines of azure = imbued with blue colour


That art or nature durst bring for compare.

     by her veins.
         107-8: made her blush…compare = would make any
     other woman whom either human skill or nature could
     come up with blush for shame to be compared to her.3



If thou hadst seen, as I did note it well,

How beauty played the huswife, how this girl,


Like Lucrece, laid her fingers to the work,

112: Lucrece, or Lucretia, was a famously virtuous Roman matron; one night, a small group of men, which included Lucretia's husband Lucius Collatinus and the sons of the Roman king Tarquinius, argued about whose wife possessed the most virtue; deciding to settle the question immediately, they rode from their military camp and went to surprise their wives to see what they were doing in the middle of the night; while the king's sons found their wives feasting, Lucius found his wife Lucretia spinning with her maids, thus winning the bet. Edward is therefore comparing Margaret's virtuous domestic qualities with Lucretia's.

Thou wouldst, with Tarquin, hazard Rome and all

113: Sextus Tarquinius, the son of Tarquinius Superbus


To win the lovely maid of Fressingfield.

(the evil seventh king of Rome), was smitten with Lucretia's beauty; later, after the incident described in the note of line 112 above had taken place, Sextus returned to Lucius' home and raped her. Lucretia killed herself rather than live with her shame. Before doing so, however, she informed her husband and father of what happened, and in revenge her relatives precipitated a revolution which overthrew the Roman kings and established the Roman Republic.
     Edward's point is that even Tarquinius would have risked losing his throne to win Margaret; though likening his beloved with the ill-fated and violated Lucretia might not be the most sensitive of comparisons.


Ralph.  Sirrah, Ned, wouldst fain have her?

= ie. "you like to".


Pr. Edw.   Ay, Ralph.


Ralph.  Why, Ned, I have laid the plot in my head;

= concocted a plan.

thou shalt have her already.

= at once.4


Pr. Edw.   I'll give thee a new coat, an learn me that.

= "if you teach or instruct me how to accomplish that."


Ralph.  Why, Sirrah Ned, we'll ride to Oxford to

= the university at which Friar Bacon lives and teaches.


Friar Bacon: O, he is a brave scholar, sirrah; they say

= excellent.

he is a brave necromancer, that he can make women

= splendid sorcerer; strictly speaking, a necromancer is one
     who engages in raising spirits. Greene actually wrote
     negromancy, an alternative spelling used in those days,
     which was subsequently translated to mean "black arts".4


of devils, and he can juggle cats into costermongers.

= ie. turn, transform.  = apple-sellers.


Pr. Edw.   And how then, Ralph?

130: "what follows?"


Ralph.  Marry, sirrah, thou shalt go to him: and

because thy father Harry shall not miss thee, he shall

= ie. so that.  = ie. Henry III.


turn me into thee; and I'll to the court, and I'll prince

134: I'll to = ie. "I'll go to". 
         134-5: prince it out = act like a prince, ie. "I'll be you."

it out; and he shall make thee either a silken purse

= "turn you into".


full of gold, or else a fine wrought smock.

= finely made lady's undergarment.


Pr. Edw.   But how shall I have the maid?

= ie. get.


Ralph.  Marry, sirrah, if thou be'st a silken purse full

of gold, then on Sundays she'll hang thee by her

141-2: she'll hang…side = purses of money were tied to
     one's outer-clothing, which made them tempting targets
     for pick-pockets; see the description of cutpurse in line
     144 below.


side, and you must not say a word. Now, sir, when

she comes into a great prease of people, for fear of

= press, ie. crush or crowd.1


the cutpurse, on a sudden she'll swap thee into her

144: cutpurse = a pick-pocket who subtly snipped the
     strings attaching a purse to one's outer garments.
         144-5: on a sudden…plackerd = "she will suddenly
     stash (swap) you beneath her underskirt (plackerd, ie.
     placket).1 Plackerd could also refer more narrowly to
     the slit in the front of the garment.

plackerd; then, sirrah, being there, you may plead for

145-6: you may plead for yourself = "you will have to



     argue or beg for yourself": the sense is suggestive and

     humorous, "you are on your own."


Erms.  Excellent policy!


Pr. Edw.    But how if I be a wrought smock?

150: ie. "but what if I am transformed into a smock instead
     of a purse?"


Ralph.  Then she'll put thee into her chest and lay

152-3: lay thee in lavender = slang for "put you away for

thee into lavender, and upon some good day she'll

     later use".1


put thee on; and at night when you go to bed, then

being turned from a smock to a man, you may make

155-6: make up the match = get engaged to be married.1


up the match.


Lacy.   Wonderfully wisely counselled, Ralph.


Pr. Edw.   Ralph shall have a new coat.


Ralph.  God thank you when I have it on my back,

162: wryly, "I'll gladly thank you for it when I see it."



Pr. Edw.   Lacy, the fool hath laid a perfect plot,

= has come up with a great scheme.


For why our country Margaret is so coy,

166: For why = because.
         Margaret = when appearing in the middle of a line,
     Margaret is almost always, as here, pronounced with
     two syllables: MAR-gret.
         coy = modest, unresponsive.

And stands so much upon her honest points,

167: ie. "and insists on remaining chaste" (honest = chaste).


That marriage or no market with the maid −

168: ie. "it's either marriage or no deal with her"; Edward of
     course cannot marry a commoner, but he does want to
     get her to bed.

Ermsby, it must be necromantic spells


And charms of art that must enchain her love,

= the occult.

Or else shall Edward never win the girl.


Therefore, my wags, we'll horse us in the morn,

= lads.  = ie. "mount our horses".

And post to Oxford to this jolly friar:

= ride speedily.1  = gay or merry; the phrase jolly friar


Bacon shall by his magic do this deed.

     appears eight times in our play, and frolic friar is thrown
     in twice as well to relieve the monotony.


Warr.  Content, my lord; and that's a speedy way

= "very well".

To wean these headstrong puppies from the teat.

= a coarse metaphor for teasing women away from their path
     of resistance.


Pr. Edw.   I am unknown, not taken for the prince;

179: there is no one in Fressingfield who would recognize 
     the prince, nor has there been any advertisement that 
     he personally has been hunting in the forest there.


They only deem us frolic courtiers,

180-1: the locals would likely assume Edward's party to be

That revel thus among our liege's game:

     an anonymous group of sportive (frolic) members of
     the king's court out hunting the king's game.


Therefore I have devised a policy.

= strategy.

Lacy, thou know'st next Friday is Saint James',

183: next Friday = this is the earliest appearance in English
     letters of the word next used with a day of the week.1
         Saint James' = the Feast day of St. James the
, 25 July.


And then the country flocks to Harleston fair;

= Harleston is a small town located only about 4 miles
     north-west of Fressingfield, but in Norfolk county
     across the border with Suffolk; Edward is wrong
     regarding either the day of the fair or the day of St.
     James' Feast: Harleston's fair was held on 5 July (there
     were others on 9 September and 1 December).9,11

Then will the Keeper's daughter frolic there,

= enjoy herself; this is already the third time Greene has
     used the word frolic in the play; it will be spoken an even
     dozen times in total, with frolicked appearing once as


And over-shine the troop of all the maids

186: "and outshine (in beauty) all the other young ladies".
     troop = group or assembly (of people).1

That come to see and to be seen that day.


Haunt thee disguised among the country-swains,

188: Edward wants Lacy to attend the fair, but in some rustic
     outfit that will disguise his noble identity.
         Haunt = keep company.
         country-swains = local yokels.

Feign thou'rt a farmer's son, not far from thence,

189: "pretend you are a farmer's son hailing not far from
     there (ie. Harleston)"; this way Lacy will have a plausible
     story as to why no one from Fressingfield will know or
     recognize him.


Espy her loves, and who she liketh best;

= "observe her tastes", ie. as to what or who she is
     attracted to.

Cote him, and court her to control the clown;

191: Lacy should out-woo any young man Margaret seems
     to fancy, so as to restrain or prevent (control) such a
     peasant (clown) from winning her over.1
         Note the intense alliteration in this line.
         Cote = surpass in some way,1 or keep alongside of.3


Say that the courtier 'tirèd all in green,

= man of the court.  = "who was attired"; pronounced TI-red.

That helped her handsomely to run her cheese,

= skilfully.1


And filled her father's lodge with venison,

Commends him, and sends fairings to herself.

= sends his regards.  = gifts, especially those purchased
     at a fair; but also meaning gifts from a suitor or lover.1


Buy something worthy of her parentage,

= meaning "status as the daughter of a mere gamekeeper".

Not worth her beauty; for, Lacy, then the fair

197: Not worth her beauty = ie. but not too nice.


Affords no jewèl fitting for the maid.

         197-8: the fair..maid = the sense is, "there is nothing
     that can be bought at a fair, comparable in value to a
     jewel, that is good enough for Margaret."

And when thou talk's of me, note if she blush:


O, then she loves; but if her cheeks wax pale,

= "then she loves me."  = grow.

Disdain it is. Lacy, send how she fares,

= ie. "then she scorns me."  = "send news", or "let me


And spare no time nor cost to win her loves.



Lacy.  I will, my lord, so execute this charge

= responsibility.

As if that Lacy were in love with her.

205: an ironic line, in view of later developments.


Pr. Edw.   Send letters speedily to Oxford of the news.


Ralph.  And, Sirrah Lacy, buy me a thousand


thousand million of fine bells.


Lacy.  What wilt thou do with them, Ralph?


Ralph.  Marry, every time that Ned sighs for the

Keeper's daughter, I'll tie a bell about him: and so


within three or four days I will send word to his

father Harry, that his son, and my master Ned, is


become Love's morris-dancer.

= one who performs at a morris dance, a traditional English

dance performed on May Day and during other festivals; the morris dancer was usually dressed as a foolish character, often in a hobby horse (a figure of a horse worn about the waist),1 and frequently wore bells.4


Pr. Edw.   Well, Lacy, look with care unto thy charge,

And I will haste to Oxford to the friar,


That he by art and thou by secret gifts

= skill in witchcraft.

Mayst make me lord of merry Fressingfield.


Lacy.  God send your honour your heart's desire.

225: the line seems short; Dyce posits changing the ending


to all your heart's desire, while Ward cites an earlier editor who suggests the second your is disyllabic: you-er; on the other hand, speeches of single lines regularly are in prose, even when spoken by characters who otherwise speak mainly or solely in verse. Christopher Marlowe was particularly noted for employing this tactic.



Friar Bacon's cell at Brasenose.

Enter Friar Bacon,
and Miles, his poor scholar with books
under his arm; Burden, Mason and Clement.

Entering Characters: Friar Bacon is Roger Bacon (1214?-1294), an English scientist and cleric. Some details of his life are provided in the introductory sketch appearing at the beginning of this edition.

     Miles is Bacon's student-servant. According to Seltzer, as a penniless student, Miles receives free tuition and board in return for his services. He plays the role of a joker, or jester, to the serious Bacon.

     Burden, Mason and Clement are scholars and leading administrators at Oxford. As doctors, the three have received the highest degrees granted by the university, qualifying them to be instructors.

     The scene begins with the three scholars visiting Bacon in his study.


Bacon.  Miles, where are you?


Miles.  Hic sum, doctissime et reverendissime

3-4: "Here I am, most learned and most reverend teacher."



All Latin translations are by Nimmo, unless otherwise indicated.
     The editors all note how the Latin in these lines is not perfect; but while Bacon can be assumed to be fluent in Latin, Miles will later be chided for his lack of ability in the language.


Bacon.  Attulisti nos libros meos de necromantia?

6: "Hast thou brought us our books on necromancy?"


Miles.  Ecce quam bonum et quam jucundum

8-9: "Behold how good and pleasant it is to keep books

habitare libros in unum!

     in one place!" Ward notes the line is a parody of Psalms
     133:1, "Behold how good and how pleasant a thing it is,
     that brethren dwell together in unity" (Bishop's Bible,


Bacon.  Now, masters of our academic state

10-11: in referring to his guests as masters and viceroys,


That rule in Oxford, viceroys in your place,

Bacon suggests they are not just leading scholars, but that they are heads of some of the colleges that comprise Oxford University.

Whose heads contain maps of the liberal arts,

12: ie. "whose brains hold the sum of all knowledge of the liberal arts".
     maps = summaries, ie. totality of knowledge.1
     liberal arts = the seven classical areas of academic study, which includes grammar, logic and rhetoric (the trivium) and arithmetic, geometry, astronomy and music (the quadrium).1


Spending your time in depth of learnèd skill,

Why flock you thus to Bacon's secret cell,

= secluded room.


A friar newly stalled in Brazen-nose?

= installed.  = Brazen-nose, or more properly Brasenose,
     was one of the colleges at Oxford, but as it was not
     established until 1509, its identity as Bacon's home is
     anachronistic.9 Ward, however, notes that there was a
     Brasen Nose Hall present in the 13th century, called so
     thanks to the existence of a brass nose fixed on the hall's

Say what's your mind, that I may make reply.

= in modern parlance, "what's on".


Burd.  Bacon, we hear that long we have suspect,

= "which we have long suspected".


That thou art read in magic's mystery;

= well-versed.

In pyromancy, to divine by flames;

21: pyromancy, as the text says, is divination by means of
     observing fire; forecasts could be made, for example, by
     observing the direction a fire turns.13


To tell, by hydromatic, ebbs and tides; 

22: tell = foretell.6
     hydromatic = likely an error for hydromancy, divination by observation of water. A ring, for example, might be suspended by a thread over a vessel of water, and the vessel being struck, the water or ring observed; or the diviner might, as the Dictionary of Arts, Sciences and Literature (1819) says, examine "the various agitations of the waves of the sea."13 The OED also suggests, with some cynicism, that hydromancy may involve observing the "pretended appearance of spirits" within the water.1

By aeromancy to discover doubts,

23: in aeromancy, the magician foretells events by means of observing atmospheric phenomena, such as unusual winds or storms.13 Ward quotes from an earlier source, which noted that wind from the east signals good fortune; from the west, evil; from the south, calamity; and from the north, the revelation of a secret; and from all four quarters simultaneously, a violent storm in the offing.
     It was believed still in the 16th century that there were four elements of which all matter of the universe were comprised, namely fire, water, air and earth; each of these elements, furthermore, could be observed individually for purposes of divination. Greene includes three of these forms of divination here, neglecting only to mention geomancy, divination by means of studying the earth, which particularly involved tossing earth onto the ground and observing the resulting pattern formed.1
     discover doubts = resolve "difficult propositions" (Seltzer, p. 11).


To plain out questions, as Apollo did.

24: "to answer questions, as did Apollo through his oracle."

The reference is to the very famous and frequently mentioned seer of ancient Greece, located in the town of Delphi; for a fee, one could ask a question of the priestess, who would transmit an answer from Apollo.
     plain out = explain or make plain.


Bacon.  Well, Master Burden, what of all this?


Miles.  Marry, sir, he doth but fulfil, by rehearsing

28: Miles' merry banter reveal him to be a jokester, playing

of these names, the fable of the Fox and the Grapes;

the clown for Bacon as Ralph does for Edward.


that which is above us pertains nothing to us.

     28-30: Miles refers to that most well-known Aesop's

fable, in which the fox, unable to reach the grapes which were hanging from a high trestle, went away dejectedly, asserting the grapes were probably sour anyway; the story is not exactly apropos to our situation here, as the Scholars are not complaining or trying (but failing) to learn about the magic performed by Bacon; rather, they are only inquiring as to whether the rumours they have heard about him are true.
     Note that Miles is punning on above us, as the grapes could be said to be literally above the fox, while Bacon's sorcery is above, ie. beyond the comprehension of, the visitors.
     Observe also that none of the characters pays any attention to comic Miles' observations.


Burd.  I tell thee, Bacon, Oxford makes report,

Nay, England, and the court of Henry says,


Thou'rt making of a brazen head by art,

34: "that you are using magic to make a head of brass".

Which shall unfold strange doubts and aphorisms,

35" "which shall explain or clarify unusual inquiries and
     speak pithy maxims and truths".


And read a lecture in philosophy;

= common phrase meaning "teach a lesson", ie. instruct.1

And, by the help of devils and ghastly fiends,

37: devil and devils are always pronounced as a single
     syllable in Friar Bacon: de'il.
         ghastly = terrible.1


Thou mean'st, ere many years or days be past,

= before.

To compass England with a wall of brass.

39: just as many towns in the Middle Ages protected


themselves by constructing a defensive wall around their perimeters, Bacon intends to do the same to protect all of England. The History makes it clear that it was only through the agency of the talking brass head that such a wall could be created.
     A brass wall would be exponentially more difficult to penetrate than one of earth or stone.
     compass = surround.

Bacon.  And what of this?


Miles.  What of this, master! Why, he doth speak


mystically; for he knows, if your skill fail to make a

= metaphorically.1

brazen head, yet Mother Waters' strong ale will fit

45: Mother Water's strong ale = a 17th century publication


his turn to make him have a copper nose.

sheds light on this line, which has long stumped editors: Mother Water is water which has been alkalized, and is a prime ingredient in the making of copper-sulfate (hence the allusion to a copper nose in line 46), also called copperas or vitriol, which was used in dyeing and tanning.1
     An extra layer of wordplay is noted by Collins, who observes (and I have confirmed) that literature of the period makes occasional reference to "Mother Watkin's Ale", so that Miles' use of Mother Waters' strong ale is likely a parody of that as well.
     45-46: fit his turn = serve his purpose.
     a copper nose (line 46) = Miles' jest may not only be playing on the juxtaposition of brass and copper, but with ale also hinting at the changing of a heavy drinker's nose to red, the colour of copper.


Clem.  Bacon, we come not grieving at thy skill,

= troubled or annoyed by.1

But joying that our ácadémy yields

= rejoicing, delighted.1  = academy, meaning university,
     is stressed on the first and third syllables wherever it
     appears in our play.


A man supposed the wonder of the world.

= reckoned, regarded.2 The History confirms that Bacon
     "grew so excellent" in the arts of magic "that not England
     onely, but all Christendome, admired him."

For if thy cunning work these miracles,

= knowledge or skill.


England and Europe shall admire thy fame,

And Oxford shall in characters of brass,

= letters.


And statues, such as were built up in Rome,

Etérnize Friar Bacon for his art.

= immortalize.


Mason.  Then, gentle friar, tell us thy intent.

= ie. "what you intend to do."


Bacon.  Seeing you come as friends unto the friar,

= Bacon means himself.


Resolve you, doctors, Bacon can by books

= "be assured".

Make storming Boreas thunder from his cave,

61: raise winds; Boreas, who was said to reside in a cave on
     Mt. Haemus in Thrace, was the god of the north wind.10


And dim fair Luna to a dark eclipse.

= dim is a verb.  = the moon, as a goddess.

The great arch-ruler, potentate of hell,

63: Bacon describes Lucifer, the head-demon of hell.


Trembles when Bacon bids him, or his fiends,

= commands.

Bow to the force of his pentageron.

65: Bow to = "to submit to".
         pentageron = alternate name for pentagonon, or
     pentagram, a five-pointed star, drawn with a single
     continuous line. It was, and is, a figure useful in the
     casting of spells, offering protection to the sorcerer
     from evil spirits.


What art can work, the frolic friar knows;

66: "what magic (art) can do, the jolly friar knows."

And therefore will I turn my magic books,


And strain out necromancy to the deep.

= ie. "and explore and use necromancy to the greatest extent

I have contrived and framed a head of brass

= invented and created.1


(I made Belcephon hammer out the stuff),

= a demon in Bacon's service.

And that by art shall read philosophy.

71: and that by magic will expound on questions of


And I will strengthen England by my skill,

72: ie. with a wall of brass.

That if ten Caesars lived and reigned in Rome,

73-75: Bacon alludes to Julius Caesar's two invasions of


With all the legions Europe doth contain,

England: the first, in 55 B.C., was but a brief stopover; for

They should not touch a grass of English ground;

the second landing in 54 B.C., however, Caesar brought 5 legions and 2000 cavalry, and the Romans battled a number of local tribes, even succeeding in crossing the Thames, before returning to Gaul.12


The work that Ninus reared at Babylon,

76-77: According to legend, Ninus was the founder of the

The brazen walls framed by Semiramis,

ancient city of Nineveh, and Semiramis was his warrior wife. Having been granted by Ninus absolute power to rule as a sovereign on her own for five days, Semiramis ordered her husband killed, thus becoming sole monarch of Nineveh. She went on to conquer much of Asia, founding the Assyrian Empire. Many legends surround her name, including ascribing to her responsibility for the completion of numerous construction projects, such as building the walls of Babylon.12
     brazen (line 77) = brass; Collins notes that the idea that Babylon's walls were made of brass was invented by Greene.


Carved out like to the portal of the sun,

= to resemble.  = gateway of the sun.2 Ward notes the 
     image may be borrowed from the opening lines of Book
     II of Ovid's Metamorphoses, in which the Roman poet
     describes the radiant "folding doors" of the "palace of
     the sun".16

Shall not be such as rings the English strand

= shore.2


From Dover to the market-place of Rye.

80: Dover = major port city along the English Channel,

famous for its white cliffs.
     Rye = formerly important port city, situated about 30 miles south-west of Dover. Also the birth-place of dramatist John Fletcher.
     Both Dover and Rye were part of a chain of port cities known as the Cinque Ports (Five Ports), whose original members included Hastings, Romney, Hythe, Dover and Sandwich, and to which were later added Rye and Winchelsea. The towns were exempt from paying taxes to the crown in return for their service in furnishing the majority of the English navy.9


Burd.  Is this possible?


Miles.  I'll bring ye two or three witnesses.


Burd.  What be those?

= who; for the first time, Miles is addressed by one of the



Miles.  Marry, sir, three or four as honest devils and

good companions as any be in hell.


Mason.  No doubt but magic may do much in this;


For he that reads but mathematic rules

= studies.  = Collins notes that the word mathematics was
     often used to mean astrology or astronomy.

Shall find conclusions that avail to work

= tenets or precepts.1


Wonders that pass the common sense of men.

= surpass.  = ordinary understanding or comprehension.1


Burd.  But Bacon roves a bow beyond his reach,

= "is using a bow that is too long for the reach of his arms";7 rove is a term from archery, meaning "to fire an arrow at an arbitrarily selected target",1 or "to shoot at a distant target with an elevation";5 Burden, who is cynical regarding Bacon's ability to perform genuine sorcery, is suggesting that Bacon claims to do more than he is really capable of.

And tells of more than magic can perform,


Thinking to get a fame by fooleries.

= ie. "such foolishness."

Have I not passed as far in state of schools,

99: "have I not received the same honours or degrees (as
     Bacon has)".4


And read of many secrets ? Yet to think

= ie. "studied as many".

That heads of brass can utter any voice,


Or more, to tell of deep philosophy,

This is a fable Æsop had forgot.

103: Burden sarcastically refers back to Miles' allusion to
     one of Aesop's fables back in line 29.


Bacon.  Burden, thou wrong'st me in detracting thus;

= "disparaging me".


Bacon loves not to stuff himself with lies.

But tell me 'fore these doctors, if thou dare,

= ie. answer.  = in front of.


Of certain questions I shall move to thee.

= put.


Burd.  I will: ask what thou can.


Miles.  Marry, sir, he'll straight be on your pick-pack

= ie. on your back; pick-pack was a 16th century phrase
     that eventually morphed during the 19th century into
     our modern piggy-back.1

to know whether the feminine or the masculine

113-4: reference to the grammatical distinctions of Latin,


gender be most worthy.

     and more specifically a spoof of an assertion put forth

     by the grammarian William Lily (c.1468-1522) that the
     masculine gender was more worthy than the feminine,
     and both more worthy than the neuter (Seltzer, p.14).


Bacon.  Were you not yesterday, Master Burden, at

Henley upon the Thames?

117: Henley is a town in Oxfordshire, located about 22 miles


     from Oxford and resting along the Thames.

Burd.  I was: what then?


Bacon.  What book studied you thereon all night?


Burd.   I! None at all; I read not there a line.


Bacon.  Then, doctors, Friar Bacon's art knows naught.

125: ie. "if what Burden says is true, then my magic (art)


doesn’t work".
     naught = nothing.

Clem.  What say you to this, Master Burden? Doth


he not touch you?

= ie. strike a nerve in.


Burd.   I pass not of his frivolous speeches.

= care.  = about.


Miles.  Nay, Master Burden, my master, ere he hath

= before.

done with you, will turn you from a doctor to a


dunce, and shake you so small that he will leave no

134: dunce = block-head, dullard, as dunce is still used today.
     shake you so small = "shake or shatter your belief", or "cause you to shake or shiver from terror",4 due to the impressiveness of the magic Bacon will show Burden.

more learning in you than is in Balaam's ass.

= that is, not much: Balak, king of Moab, had sent for the prophet Balaam to come to his land and curse the Israelites; as Balaam began his journey, an invisible angel of the lord blocked his path, causing the donkey Balaam was riding to first turn off the road, then crush his foot along a wall, and finally fall to the ground, each incident after which Balaam savagely beat the beast; the angel then gave the donkey the gift of speech, and the donkey asked the stunned prophet why he was beating him; after which the angel revealed himself to the repentant Balaam (Numbers 22).


Bacon.  Masters, for that learnèd Burden's skill is deep,

= because, being that.


And sore he doubts of Bacon's cabalism,

= intensely.1  = skills in the occult.1 Caballah refers to 
     the mystical Jewish method of interpreting the hidden
     meaning of the Scripture.7

I'll show you why he haunts to Henley oft.

= visits.  = frequently.


Not, doctors, for to taste the fragrant air,

= in order.  = smell.1

But there to spend the night in alchemy,


To multiply with secret spells of art;

= a term of art from alchemy, referring to the transmuting
     of base metals into gold or silver; but Bacon is being
     droll, as he is also using multiply in its sense of breeding
     or increasing the population.

Thus private steals he learning from us all.

= secretly.


To prove my sayings true, I'll show you straight

= right now.

The book he keeps at Henley for himself.


Miles.  Nay, now my master goes to conjuration,


take heed.


Bacon.  Masters,

Stand still, fear not, I'll show you but his book.

151: Stand still = Seltzer suggests these words indicate


that the Scholars are clearly agitated.
     show you but his book = Bacon continues to be slyly ironic.



Per omnes deos infernales, Belcephon!

155: "by all the infernal deities, Belcephon!"


Enter Hostess with a shoulder of mutton on a spit,

157: Entering Character: the Hostess keeps an inn in


and a devil.

Henley. The symbolism of the mutton would be clear to an

Elizabethan audience: mutton was common slang for a harlot or prostitute, so Bacon is revealing that the real reason Burden has been sneaking off to Henley is to carry on an affair with the Hostess, whom he has been wryly referring to as Burden's book.
     The devil is Belcephon, the demon Bacon controls, and whom he sent to retrieve the Hostess.


Miles.  Oh, master, cease your conjuration, or you

spoil all; for here’s a she-devil come with a shoulder


of mutton on a spit. You have marred the devil's

supper; but no doubt he thinks our college fare is

= food.


slender, and so hath sent you his cook with a

= meager.

shoulder of mutton, to make it exceed.

= increase the fare's amount or quality.


Host.  O, where am I, or what's become of me?


Bacon.  What art thou?


Host.  Hostess at Henley, mistress of the Bell.

= an inn at Henley, whose sign was a bell; Sugden notes


there was a Bell Inn at Hurley, three miles east of Henley, but not one at Henley, where the local inn was called the Red Lion.

Bacon.  How cam'st thou here?


Woman.  As I was in the kitchen 'mongst the maids,


Spitting the meat 'gainst supper for my guess,

= in preparation for.  = early variant for guests.

A motion moved me to look forth of door:

= impulse.  = out of the.


No sooner had I pried into the yard,

= peered.

But straight a whirlwind hoisted me from thence,

= immediately.  = from there.


And mounted me aloft unto the clouds.

As in a trance I thought nor fearèd naught,

= nothing; note the line's double negative, which were still
     common and acceptable in this era.


Nor know I where or whither I was ta'en,

= to where.

Nor where I am nor what these persons be.

= who.


Bacon.  No? Know you not Master Burden?


Woman.  O, yes, good sir, he is my daily guest. −


What, Master Burden! 'twas but yesternight

That you and I at Henley played at cards.

= no doubt a euphemism for what she and Burden really
     did every night.


Burd.   I know not what we did. − A pox of all

= a pox on; according to the OED, Greene here introduces


conjuring friars!

to English literature the quintessential Elizabethan curse;

pox could refer to smallpox or venereal disease; however, the phrase also appears in the History, on which Greene no doubt based our play, and there is evidence that it also appeared in a 1590 book, which would have been published before the earliest extant copy of Friar Bacon, which was printed in 1594.


Clem.  Now, jolly friar, tell us, is this the book

That Burden is so careful to look on?


Bacon.  It is. − But, Burden, tell me now,


Think'st thou that Bacon's necromantic skill

= ie. "do you (still) believe".

Cannot perform his head and wall of brass,

= build, construct.1


When he can fetch thine hostess in such post!

= so quickly.


Miles.  I'll warrant you, master, if Master Burden

= assure.

could conjure as well as you, he would have his

203-4: his book = still meaning "his mistress".


book every night from Henley to study on at Oxford.

204: this would save Burden the trouble of travelling down

     to Henley every day!


Mason.  Burden,

What, are you mated by this frolic friar? −

= checkmated, ie. confounded.


Look how he droops; his guilty consciënce

Drives him to bash, and makes his hostess blush.

= shame, humiliation.1


Bacon.  Well, mistress, for I will not have you missed,

= because.  = missed puns with mist-ress.


You shall to Henley to cheer up your guests

= ie. return to.

Fore supper gin. − Burden, bid her adieu;

= begins.


Say farewell to your hostess 'fore she goes. −

Sirrah, away, and set her safe at home.

= common term of address for a servant, here referring to



Host.  Master Burden, when shall we see you at




Burd.  The devil take thee and Henley too.

= common curse of the period.


[Exeunt Hostess and Devil.]


Miles.  Master, shall I make a good motion?

= proposal, suggestion.


Bacon.  What's that?


Miles.  Marry, sir, now that my hostess is gone to

provide supper, conjure up another spirit, and send


Doctor Burden flying after.


Bacon.  Thus, rulers of our academic state,

232: Bacon does not deign to respond to  Miles.

You have seen the friar frame his art by proof;

= ie. "demonstrate, and thus prove, his skill in magic."
     frame = produce.1


And as the college callèd Brazen-nose

Is under him, and he the master there,


So surely shall this head of brass be framed,

= constructed.

And yield forth strange and uncouth aphorisms;

= ie. proclaim, state.  = marvelous or uncommon truths.1


And hell and Hecatë shall fail the friar,

238: the sense is, "even if hell and Hecate should fail to 

But I will circle England round with brass.

     help me", ie. no matter what happens.
         Hecate = a mysterious and powerful yet poorly
     understood goddess, who was considered a deity of
     the underworld.10


Miles.   So be it et nunc et semper; amen.

= Latin: "both now and forever"; the phrase is borrowed


from a longer utterance used in the Ordinary Form of the Latin Catholic office: Sicut erat in princípio et nunc et semper, et in sǽcula sæculórum (As it was in the beginning, and now, and always, and in the ages of the ages).14



The Harleston Fair.

Enter Margaret and Joan;

Entering Characters: Margaret is our Keeper's daughter,

Thomas, Richard and other Clowns;

     the lass with whom Prince Edward is smitten, and Joan

and Lacy disguised in country apparel.

     is her friend. Thomas and Richard are local rustics


Thom.  By my troth, Margaret, here's a weather is

1-4: Thomas notes that the good weather has led to a successful planting season, which will likely depress prices.
     A subsistence economy like England's led to the serious problem of hoarding by farmers, in which a farmer might stash away some portion of his crops to sell during times of scarcity, when he would then be able to price-gouge his hungry customers.
     By my troth = "I swear".
     is = that is.


able to make a man call his father “whoreson”: if

this weather hold, we shall have hay good cheap,

= common phrase for "at low prices".1


and butter and cheese at Harleston will bear no price.

= common phrase for "have no monetary value".


Marg.  Thomas, maids when they come to see the fair

6-7: the sense is, "young ladies don't come to the fair in

Count not to make a cope for dearth of hay:

     order to get a bargain (cope)17 for expensive hay."
         count = reckon.1
         dearth = high price.1


When we have turned our butter to the salt,

8-9: ie. "once we have finished preparing butter and cheese

And set our cheese safely upon the racks,

     for sale, etc."


Then let our fathers prize it as they please.

= assign a value or price to.1

We country sluts of merry Fressingfield

= the word slut has always carried the meaning of "a woman
     of loose character", but it could also be used, as here, in
     a playful and harmless way, similarly to "wench".1


Come to buy needless naughts to make us fine,

= useless or unnecessary items of no value.  = attractive.

And look that young men should be frank this day,

= generous, ie. ready to spend money on the girls.2


And court us with such fairings as they can.

= gifts bought at the fair.  = ie. can afford.

Phoebus is blithe, and frolic looks from Heaven,

15: "the sun is clement (blithe),1 and joyfully shines down
     from the heavens"; Phoebus refers to the deity Apollo
     in his guise as the sun-god.


As when he courted lovely Semele,

16: Semele was a maiden beloved by Jupiter, the king of the gods; given that when the deity revealed himself to Semele in all his fiery splendor, it killed her, the simile is not exactly apropos, never mind the fact that Margaret is mistaken in assigning the story to Apollo.

Swearing the pedlars shall have empty packs,

= ie. because the fair weather guarantees the vendors will
     be able to sell off all their wares to the fair's attenders,
     who will be in a buying mood.


If that fair weather may make chapmen buy.

= merchants, dealers.2


Lacy.  But, lovely Peggy, Semele is dead,

20-23: the educated Lacy picks up on, without correcting,
     Margaret's mythological allusion: since Semele is dead,
     Apollo turns his attention to the lovely Margaret.

And therefore Phoebus from his palace pries,

= ie. looks down.


And, seeing such a sweet and seemly saint,

22: note the intense alliteration in this line.

Shows all his glories for to court yourself.

= in order; Lacy has laid on the compliments pretty thickly;
     Margaret will notice that the disguised nobleman's
     speech is too refined for him to be the simple peasant
     he claims to be.
         Notice also that the polished Lacy's speech is in verse,
     as is that of the ladies, while the male rustics all speak in
     broad prose.


Marg.  This is a fairing, gentle sir, indeed,

= gift.


To soothe me up with such smooth flattery;

26: soothe me up = ie. "humour me completely".4 Margaret
     assumes Lacy is teasing her.
         smooth = seemingly genial;1 note the wordplay of
     soothe and smooth.

But learn of me, your scoff's too broad before. −

= be instructed by.  = the sense is, "your teasing is too
     obvious or explicit."


Well, Joan, our beauties must abide their jests;

= put up with.

We serve the turn in jolly Fressingfield.

= this purpose, ie. it is our duty.


Joan.  Margaret,


A farmer's daughter for a farmer's son:

I warrant you, the meanest of us both

= assure.  = more inferior, perhaps meaning "the least


Shall have a mate to lead us from the church.

34: Joan is focused on finding a husband today,


[Lucy whispers Margaret in the ear.]


But, Thomas, what's the news? What, in a dump?

= ie. "are you depressed?"

Give me your hand, we are near a pedlar's shop;

= probably pronounced as "we're" for the meter's sake.


Out with your purse, we must have fairings now.


Thom.  Faith, Joan, and shall. I'll bestow a fairing on

you, and then we will to the tavern, and snap off a

= ie. "we will go to"; note the common Elizabethan


pint of wine or two.

     grammatical construction of this phrase: in the presence
     of a word of intent (will), the word of movement (go)
     may be omitted.
         43-44: snap off...or two = the sense is, "grab a quick
     drink or two."


Marg.  Whence are you, sir! Of Suffolk? For your terms

= from where.  = words, language.

Are finer than the common sort of men.


Lacy.  Faith, lovely girl, I am of Beccles by,

= "from near Beccles", a town located about 10 miles east-north-east of Fressingfield, far away enough that Lacy should not raise suspicion just because nobody from the latter town knows him.


Your neighbour, not above six miles from hence,

A farmer's son, that never was so quaint

= Ward suggests "shy".


But that he could do courtesy to such dames.

= bow to, pay obeisance to.1

But trust me, Margaret, I am sent in charge

= ie. with a specific responsibility.


From him that revelled in your father's house,

= who.

And filled his lodge with cheer and venison,


'Tirèd in green: he sent you this rich purse,

= dressed; presumably Lacy hands or offers to Margaret a
     purse of money as he speaks this line.

His token that he helped you run your cheese,

= sign or evidence (to be recognized by Margaret as having


And in the milkhouse chatted with yourself.

     come from Edward).


Marg.  To me?


Lacy.  You forget yourself:

62: "you have forgotten."

Women are often weak in memory.


Marg.  O, pardon, sir, I call to mind the man:


'Twere little manners to refuse his gift,

= "it would be unmannerly".

And yet I hope he sends it not for love;


For we have little leisure to debate of that.


Joan.  What, Margaret! blush not; maids must have
     their loves.


Thom.  Nay, by the mass, she looks pale as if she

= an oath.