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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

§ 22. The Bugbears

Another English version of a typical Italian comedy is The Bugbears, an adaptation, first published in 1561, of La Spiritata by the Florentine A. F. Grazzini. The Bugbears, which is not yet conveniently accessible, was, probably, more or less contemporary with supposes, but, unlike Gascoigne’s play, it turned the prose of its original into verse. It also departed much more widely from the Italian text, adding scenes and characters based upon the Andria of Terence and Gl’ Ingannati, and only mentioning some of the personages whom Grazzini brings upon the stage. But, though the action in the English piece is complicated by the introduction of an underplot, the unities of time and place are skilfully preserved. The main plot deals with the trick of Formosus to obtain 3000 crowns from his miserly father Amadeus, which he needs for the latter’s consent to his marriage with Rosimunda. Formosus has already secretly wedded her; but Amadeus will not accept any daughter-in-law who does not bring the above dowry. With the aid of a friend, Formosus makes such a disturbance at night in his father’s house that Amadeus is convinced that his home is haunted by spirits, the “bugbears” of the title. On consulting an astrologer, Nostrodamus, who, in reality, is a disguised servant, named Trappola, in league with the conspirators, he is told that the spirits are angry with him for opposing his son’s marriage, and that they have carried off as a punishment 3000 crowns from his cherished hoard. The money, of course, has been abstracted by Formosus, who is thus enabled to provide for Rosimunda’s dowry. The mock-astrologer also predicts danger to Cantalupo, an elderly wooer of Rosimunda, and the chief figure in the underplot, unless he abandons his suit. To further it, Cantalupo has pressed for the marriage of his daughter, Iphigenia, furnished with the requisite dowry, to Formosus. But the girl has resisted because she loves Manutius, whom now, at last, she is set free to wed. There are other lesser threads in the piece, including the humours of the servants of the chief personages; and it contains a number of songs, both solos and choruses. The style is racy and vigorous, and the play is in all respects a notable example of Italianate comedy in English.