No contemporary edition of this play survives, if it was ever published, but there is a Bodleian Library manuscript, Rawlinson D. 398, which has been several times reproduced or transcribed; it also includes the first play of the trilogy, the Voyage to Parnassus. Much speculation about the identity of the author or authors has produced no consensus.



a synoptic, alphabetical character list


Only mentioned. Ingenioso applies the Ajax-a jakes pun to the miserly patron.


This youngster sings or recites Luxurioso's verses to a rustic audience at the local fair. When their enterprise fails to make money, they set out with Studioso and Philomusus to look for better fortune.


Studioso's pupil in the country is ignorant, lazy, and insolent; his complaints to his parents about Studioso's teaching help get the scholar fired.


Only mentioned. One of the writers Ingenioso is to imitate in the poem he is writing for Gullio; when the poem is recited it is a variation on three stanzas from Book 2 of Troilus and Criseyde.


Consiliodorus, the wise counselor, opens the play by asking Leonarde to take letters to Studioso and Philomusus, inquiring how they are faring after their seven-year pilgrimage to Parnassus (the University of Cambridge). When he receives letters describing their rural poverty he laments the barbarity of an England that fails to reward learning.


A "ghost character." The only lord known to Gullio, according to Ingenioso; this is probably a reference to a jovial tailor, Godfrey Colton, a tavern favorite in Cambridge and Lord of Sturbridge fair.


A "ghost character" possibly fictitious. Gullio pretends that a Countess has entertained him.


A "ghost character." According to Ingenioso, the poet Samuel Daniel is one of the writers pillaged by Gullio.


The Draper complains to the Tayler that Philomusus and Studioso have left for London without paying their debt.


A "ghost character" possibly fictitious. Gullio boasts that an earl wants him to marry one of his daughters.


A "ghost character." In London, Luxurio hopes to take the place of the recently deceased Elizabethan ballad-maker, William Elderton, referred to here not only by his name but also by his notoriously large red nose.


Only mentioned. One of the poets Ingenio is to imitate in writing the poem for Gullio is John Gower—the only one for whom no sample of the imitation is provided.


As his name indicates, Gullio is a gull, a self-important fool. He boasts to Ingenioso about his lady love, Lesbia, his valor, his elegant clothing, his own learning, and his patronage of the learned. He asks Ingenioso to write an encomium on his mistress. He finds fault with the work, and announces his intention to improve it, but when Ingenioso presents the revised version to the lady, she is contemptuous of Gullio and his so-called learning; enraged, the gull withdraws his patronage from Ingenioso.


As they start their pilgrimage, Studioso and Philomusus meet Ingenioso. He tells them that he has published many pamphlets, but earned little. He is hoping that a diseased simpleton will sponsor his newest work. Egregious flattery gains only two groats, however, and in his anger he proposes to gain revenge through satire. He sets out like Studioso, Philomusus, and Luxurio to go to London. There he encounters the boastful Gullio, and offers to make him famous, but is rewarded only with a cast-off suit of clothes. He agrees to write an encomium to Gullio's new mistress, imitating Chaucer, Gower, Spenser, and Shakespeare; when Gullio finds the work wanting and takes it off to improve it, Ingenioso is angry, but hides it until he gets his fee. When the woman scorns the work and the fool who has sent it, however, Gullio cuts off his patronage in a storm of mutual insults. Ingenioso travels for a time with Philomusus and Studioso, hoping that by publishing he can thrive.


The garrulous carrier Leonarde takes letters from Consiliodorus to Philomusus and Studioso, and brings back news of their hard life in the country.


A "ghost character." Lesbia is the supposed beloved of Gullio. When Ingenioso presents her Gullio's "improved" version of the encomium Ingenioso has written on Gullio's behalf, she refuses to accept it, calling Gullio a known fool and despising his Latin additions to Ingenioso's work.


Luxurioso, the drinker, joins Ingenioso, Philomusus, and Studioso on their journey to London, where he hopes to make a living by writing and selling ballads. In the country, he hires a boy to sing his ballads at the fair. His efforts fail to sell, however, and he takes to the road again.


Mute characters. The nine Muses, guardians of Parnassus, observe the departure of Luxurioso, Philomusus, and Studioso for London by means of concerted music.


Though the Patron professes himself a supporter of literature, his response to Ingenioso's lavish flattery is a mere two groats.


William Perceval, a rustic, asks Philomusus to dig his dead father's grave, and to write the dead man's will. Having become churchwarden, it is he who tells Philomusus that the scholar has been discharged from his offices.


At the start Philomusus is being forced to leave Parnassus (Cambridge) with Studioso to seek his fortune in a world inhospitable to scholarship. They meet Ingenioso, who tells them of his struggle to earn a living by writing pamphlets. The three set out for London. He gets a place as sexton and clerk in a rural parish, where he digs graves and rings the bells but finds no use for his learning except to write a posthumous will for Perceval's dead father. Before long, his failure to keep the church clean, to ring the bells conscientiously, and to chase dogs from the church gets him fired. He and Studioso take to the road again.


The poor Prologue is allowed to speak but one word ("Gentle") before the Stagekeeper breaks in and drives him from the stage while abusing the author and insulting the audience.


A character in one of Luxurioso's ballads, having something to do with the war against Spain.


A character in one of Luxurioso's ballads, having something to do with the war against Spain.


A "ghost character." According to the Taylor and the Draper, when they went to collect their debts from Philomusus and Studioso, a "lean faced Scholler" called them names and sent them away empty-handed. It is possible that the reference is to Consiliodorus.


The block-headed servant of Ingenioso's potential patron agrees to introduce the two if Ingenioso will write a love-letter on his behalf.


A "ghost character." Ingenioso says in an aside that Gullio's oration on his mistress is naught but scraps of Shakespeare and other theatrical authors, and is told that his own encomium on Gullio's mistress should imitate Shakespeare among other authors; Venus and Adonis and Romeo and Juliet are particularly approved.


The tapster, Simson, whose humor is to use the phrase "as they say" once or twice a sentence, complains to the Draper and Tayler that Luxurioso has left town without paying his reckoning.


Only mentioned. "Spencer" is one of the poets Ingenioso is to imitate in the poem he is writing for Gullio; the passages quoted owe much to Book I of The Faerie Queene.


The Stagekeeper breaks in after the Prologue's first word, heaps scorn on the author of the play, and insults the audience as he drives the Prologue from the stage, his speech unspoken.


Studioso laments that his acquisition of learning has left him penniless, and resolves to leave Parnassus (Cambridge) in company with Philomusus to seek his fortune. They encounter Luxurioso, and the three set out for London. On the way, Studioso finds employment in a rural household as a tutor, but is treated badly, for very low wages. His pupil is insolent, lazy, and stupid, but Studioso is forbidden to chastise him. Studioso's refusal to let one of the bluecoats (the ordinary domestic servants) sit above him at dinner, together with the resentment of the pupil, costs him his place. He and Philomusus set out together to look for better employment; he decides to try one of the seminaries established by the Church of Rome to train English priests, at Rome or Rheims.


Only mentioned. Ingenioso wishes he could live in the underworld with the famous clown, Richard Tarleton, rather than having to deal with clotpolls like the Serving Man.


The Taylor, like the Draper, has unwisely extended credit to the departed scholars.


Only mentioned. Marcus Tullius Cicero is repeatedly invoked as the fountainhead of elegant Latinity.


A "ghost character." Gullio foolishly takes pride that a poem addressed to him has been included in John Weaver's (or Weever's) book of epigrams.