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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume III. Renascence and Reformation.

IV. Barclay and Skelton

§ 4. The influence of The Ship of Fools

The literary influence of The Ship of Fools in England is noticeable, for instance, in Cocke Lorell’s bote (c. 1510), with her crew of London craftsmen. Perhaps, also, Skelton’s lost Nacyoun of Folys (G. of L. 1470) was suggested by The Ship of Fools, the influence of which has also been traced in the same poet’s Bowge of Courte. The Boke of Three Fooles, ascribed to Skelton till quite recently, has turned out to be a mere reprint of some chapters of Watson’s prose translation referred to above. In both the cases mentioned we have to think of the Latin version rather than of Barclay’s English translation. To the latter, however, Skelton may have been indebted for some traits in his Magnyfycence, written about 1516. Copland’s Hye Way to the Spyttel Hous, published after 1531, was certainly suggested by Barclay’s chapter on beggars and vagabonds. In the later Elizabethan time The Ship of Fools was of some influence on the development of emblem books by its woodcuts, and, even when its purely literary influence had faded, it was still liked as a collection of satirical types. There are frequent allusions to it in Elizabethan drama. Its greatest importance, perhaps, lies in the fact that, by substituting distinct types for the shadowy abstractions of fifteenth century allegory, it paved the way for a new kind of literature, which soon sprang up, and, in the Elizabethan time, found its highest expression in the drama of character.