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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume IV. Prose and Poetry: Sir Thomas North to Michael Drayton.

V. Early English Comedy

§ 15. Jacke Jugeler

Another adaptation from Plautus for performance by boys is Jacke Jugeler, entered for printing in 1562/3, but written, very probably, during the reign of Mary. The author states in the prologue that the plot is based upon Amphitruo, and it is true that the chief characters in the Roman play have English citizen equivalents. But the central theme of Jupiter’s amour, in her husband’s shape, with Alcmena, disappears, and nothing is retained but the successful trick of Jacke Jugeler—the Vice who replaces Mercury—upon Jenkin Careaway, who corresponds to Sosia, servant of Amphitryon. Disguising himself like Jenkin, Jacke, by arguments and blows, forces the hapless lackey to believe that he, and not himself, is the genuine Careaway. When Jenkin tells the tale of his loss of identity to his mistress dame Coy, and her husband Bongrace, he gets further drubbings for his nonsensical story

  • That one man may have two bodies and two faces,
  • And that one man at on time may be in too placis.
  • Regarded purely as a play, Jacke Jugeler, in spite of its classical origin, is little more than a briskly written farcical episode. But, beneath its apparently jocular exterior, it veils an extraordinarily dextrous attack upon the doctrine of transubstantiation and the persecution by which it was enforced. This is hinted at in the epilogue, where “this trifling enterlude” is credited with “some further meaning, if it be well searched.”
  • Such is the fashyon of the world now a dayes,
  • That the symple innosaintes ar deluded …
  • And by strength, force, and violence oft tymes compelled
  • To believe and saye the moune is made of a grene chese
  • Or ells have great harme, and parcace their life lese.
  • It has been the fate of many dramatic forms and conventions to go through a remarkable “sea-change” in their transportation from one country or epoch to another. But seldom has any device of the comic muse been “translated” more nearly out of recognition than the classical confusion of identity, when enlisted, as here, in the service of protestant theology.