This play exists in two forms: the published quarto, 1606, and a manuscript (Folger Shakespeare Library MS. V.a.55) that supplies some useful alternative readings, many of which are adopted in J. B. Leishman's diplomatic edition of the Parnassus sequence. Leishman proposes that the quarto and the MS were both derived from an earlier MS itself (T1) derived from the original text, and that a further MS (T2) was intermediary between T1 and the Folger MS. According to the title-page of the quarto, the play was "Publiquely acted by the Students in St. Iohns Colledge in Cambridge," very probably in 1601. Extensive speculation about the authorship has produced no consensus.

Part Two, or
The Scourge of Simony


a synoptic, alphabetical character list


In a speech whose termini are echoed by Eccho, Academico learns that the surest way to get a clerical living is to bribe the holder. He throws scorn on Amoretto's love-speech, and looks on sardonically as Amoretto negotiates with Immerito and Stercutio. He reminds Amoretto of favors done when both were undergraduates, and asks his classmate's support in seeking the benefice controlled by Amoretto's father, but Amoretto will talk of nothing but hunting, and Academico, unable to match Immerito's bribe, leaves in frustration. He decides to return to the university for lack of anything better. He meets the other scholars, and they all bid farewell to each other and their blasted hopes.


Having brought his amorous proclivities from Parnassus to London, Amoretto wonders aloud how he can find the money he thinks he needs to make a good impression on his mistress, and considers selling the benefice that his father, Sir Raderick, controls; as he talks, Academico makes fun of his affected language. Amoretto agrees to request the living for Immerito in exchange for a bribe of eighty pounds. When Academico makes the same request, citing favors he did Amoretto when both were students, Amoretto puts him off by talking inanely about hunting. When Ingenioso and his associates approach, he insists on nattering about the law with the Recorder, and exits having giving them nothing but an occasion to rail.


A literary gentleman who seems to have organized the publication of a series of late Elizabethan literary anthologies, including Belvedere. He is identified and scorned by Ingenioso in the MS version of the play as a scribbler whose name will live as long as his health is drunk in ale-houses by the writers he has patronized (the corresponding place in the published version is blank).


This boy, like the Prologue in Part 1, starts to announce the play and is promptly interrupted and carried off by the Stagekeeper.


The actor Richard Burbage discusses with Kempe the difference between the university wits and such common playwrights as Shakespeare and Jonson, to the advantage of the latter. The two players interview Studioso and Philomusus as possible actors and writers, and are satisfied with the results.


This citizen, a butcher, is tricked by Philomusus' use of medical terminology into supposing him a real doctor; when it comes time to pay, however, the Burgess is miserly.


Only mentioned by Ingenioso in the same breath as Homer and Spencer [sic].


Only mentioned. According to Ingenioso and Iudicio, Thomas Churchyard's Jane Shore will not live to sustain his memory.


Only mentioned. Henry Constable is one of the poets listed by Ingenio and briefly praised by Iudicio.


Only mentioned. In praising Samuel Daniel for his skill at making sonnets, Iudicio nevertheless wishes that Daniel would move beyond imitation to true invention.


Ingenioso offers the disreputable printer John Danter, otherwise known for satires and proto-Catholic devotions, his new pamphlet, a chronicle of Cambridge cuckolds. Danter is ready to pay forty shillings and a pitcher of wine.


Only mentioned. Iudicio lauds John Davies' mastery of plain style epigrams and his amorous disposition.


Perhaps from a place in the audience, the Defensor comes to the defense of the play against Momus. His defense modulates into a proper prologue.


Only mentioned. Iudicio praises Drayton's work, and ironically dispraises his well-regulated behavior, so different from that of many writers.


Eccho's repetitions of the termini of Academico's speech inform the scholar that the only sure way to gain a clerical benefice is by bribing the man who controls the living.


Roused from his poetical dreams by Phantasmus, Furor Poeticus, who personifies the genius of epic and satire and whose speech is larded with scraps of classical poetry, agrees to attend a drinking party at Ingenioso's invitation; there they devise their scheme to get money from Sir Raderick. Furor approaches Sir Raderick with bombastic compliments, but the usurer is unsusceptible, and Furor's mouth-filling curses are no more effectual. He joins the disconsolate scholars in their final lament before they scatter.


Only mentioned. Ingenioso honors Spencer [sic] by equating him with the great Greek epic poet.


Only mentioned. Iudicio has little respect for Thomas Hudson, the translator of DuBartas.


The leader of the consort of viols that Studioso and Philomusus have joined claims that the waggish pages have promised to pay the group to perform; the imps laugh in his face.


Immerito strives to find a clerical living with the help of his father, Stercutio, despite his complete lack of the requisite learning. They approach Amoretto, who agrees to plead to his father, Sir Raderick, on Immerito's behalf in exchange for "thanks" of eighty pounds. Immerito offers further gifts to Sir Raderick, his wife, and his page, and is promised the benefice if he will pay over some of the tithes to the usurer.


Ingenioso enters reading Juvenal and proposing to satirize the open wickedness of his own day. He surveys the state of contemporary letters with Iudicio, writer by writer. He conspires with Furor Poeticus and Phantasma to extort money from Sir Raderick by flattering him, then threatening to satirize him—or his son Amoretto—unless he pays. Ingenioso himself approaches the userer's aide, the Recorder; spurned, his recourse to insults relieves only his spirits, not his empty purse. His satirical plays having brought the law on his head, he escapes to the Isle of Dogs, but not before joining his fellow-scholars, Furor Poeticus, and Phantasmus in a last, bitter lament.


Only mentioned. Iudicio and Ingenioso scorn Ben Jonson as a mere observer who would be better off if he returned to the bricklayer's trade. Burbage and Kempe, however, rate him, with Shakespeare, more highly than their university-trained competitors.


Iudicio discourages Ingenioso from writing satire, and laments his own work correcting badly written manuscripts for the press—specifically, Belvedere, a popular anthology. Together, they discuss the leading authors of the time.


Amoretto's page, Jack, hears his master's report of the way he scotched Academico's request for help, and describes a way to better the jest. In asides, he scoffs at his master's vanity and ignorance, and at the vain attempt of Ingenioso and Phantasmus to attract Amoretto's patronage. He and Sir Raderick's page make sport of the fiddlers.


Studioso as Philomusus's supposed servant adopts the name Jacques—the pun on jakes is sustained by much talk of laxatives.


In conversation with his fellow performer, Burbage, the great comic actor Will Kempe compares university-trained dramatists to such common writers as Shakespeare and Jonson to the advantage of the latter. The two audition Philomusus and Studioso as possible actors and writers.


Iudicio supposes that Kinsayder is a nom de plume for the satirist John Marston.


Only mentioned. Henry Locke (Lok), a religious poet, is dismissed by Iudicio to well-earned obscurity.


Only mentioned. Lodge's medical degree and practice, and his imitation of Lyly, are offered as grounds for the relatively low esteem in which Iudicio holds his work.


Only mentioned. Christopher Marlowe receives extensive praise from Iudicio and Ingenioso, as gifted in writing but unfortunate in life.


Only mentioned. John Marston's trenchant satire earns several lines of commendation from Ingenioso.


Perhaps seated in the audience, Momus begins to mock the play as soon as the Stagekeeper has removed the Boy.


Only mentioned. Iudicio and Ingenioso praise Thomas Nashe's wit and lament his early death.


Amoretto's page, Jack, hears his master's report of the way he scotched Academico's request for help, and describes a way to better the jest. In asides, he scoffs at his master's vanity and ignorance, and at the vain attempt of Ingenioso and Phantasmus to attract Amoretto's patronage. He and Sir Raderick's page make sport of the fiddlers.


Like Amoretto's Jack, Sir Raderick's page offers a series of contemptuous asides during the catechism of Immerito and the attempt of Ingenioso and associates to gain money from their learning. He and Amoretto's page promise payment to the fiddlers but renege.


Phantasmus, who personifies the genius of elegiac and amatory poetry, brings Ingenioso's invitation to a drinking party, where the plan to get money from Sir Raderick is worked out; his particular target is Amoretto, on whom he showers Latin tags and compliments, then insults, to no purpose. He participates in the final lament.


Philomusus enters disguised as a physician, Theodore, accompanied by his friend Studioso, also disguised as his servant and patient, Jacques. They have traveled to Rome, Paris, and Rheims but found no more fortune there than in England, and have decided that they would rather suffer at home than abroad. Since their hard-earned learning has proven useless, they propose to turn cony-catcher instead. Philomusus uses odd scraps of medical terminology to beguile the Burgess; the resulting fee, however, is skimpy, and the two continue to lament their lot. Barely escaping imprisonment for the fraud, he despairs. Interviewed by Burbage and Kempe as a potential actor and playwright, he gives satisfaction, but is loath to descend so low, and turns fiddler instead, in hopes of compensation from Sir Raderick, but is beguiled by the two pages. He tells Studioso of his intention to escape the torments of city life by becoming a shepherd, but first joins the other scholars in a final lament over the world's refusal to value their learning.


Having allowed Sir Raderick's flattery to cozen him into mortgaging his estate, Prodigo rages futilely when he must forfeit his property to the usurer.


The usurer and simoniac Sir Raderick prepares to give Immerito the benefice he controls in exchange for part of the tithes, but asks the Recorder to help him test the candidate first; they find his foolish answers to foolish questions acceptable, and give him the place. Sir Raderick expresses his pleasure at avoiding the disagreeable presumption that a university-trained parson might have assumed. He forecloses on Prodigo's mortgage. Approached by Furor Poeticus, he is proof against both praise and blame, and exits without opening his purse.


The Recorder helps Sir Raderick examine Immerito, then discusses points of law with Amoretto while ignoring and finally spurning Ingenioso.


The boy Richardetto is learning French from Studioso.


Only mentioned. Iudicio commends Adonis and Lucrece in their kind, but faults Shakespeare for avoiding graver subjects—he and Ingenioso do not mention the plays. Later, Burbage and Kempe value Shakespeare's dramatic work more highly than the plays of the university wits.


Only mentioned. Spenser is one of the writers listed by Ingenioso as represented in Belvedere; Iudicio praises his work (comparing him to Homer) and laments his lack of patronage.


In a gambit similar to the beginning of Part I, as soon as the Boy starts to introduce the play the Stagekeeper rails at him and carries him offstage. He returns to drive Momus away.


Stercutio (which means something like "dungheap") helps his unqualified son, Immerito, pursue a clerical appointment by giving Amoretto a bribe of eighty pounds.


Studioso returns from the Continent with Philomusus, where their luck has continued bad. Disguised as Philomusus' servant Jacques, he gives French lessons to Richardetto and assists in the poorly-rewarded attempt to gull the Burgess. When this scheme almost gets them imprisoned, he tries to maintain hope. Having succeeded with Philomusus in winning from Burbage and Kempe an invitation to join the players, he joins with his friend in lamenting that they must so debase their art just to live. Instead, they join a consort of fiddlers, hoping to earn a reward from Sir Raderick, but they are once again left empty-handed. He resolves with Philomusus to turn shepherd, then joins the other scholars in a final lament over their inability to profit from their learning.


Philomusus in disguise as a French physician adopts the name Theodore (perhaps a reference to the celebrated French doctor, Theodore de Turquet Mayerne, who became physician to James I in 1606).


Only mentioned. Watson is among the poets listed by Ingenioso and discussed by Iudicio, who along with Lodge accords him only faint praise, among "men of some desert."