Nicholas Udall?

A merye enterlude entitled Respublica,
made in the yeare of oure Lorde 1553,
and the first yeare of the most prosperous Reigne
of our moste gracious Sovereigne,
Quene Marye the first.


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a synoptic, alphabetical character list


Also called Flattery and Honesty, one of a set of colleagues (with Insolence and Oppression) who attach themselves to Avarice in order to raise Insolence as ruler in the land. When Avarice tells him to change his name he rejects Hypocrisy but accepts Honesty. He has comical problems learning the new names of his colleagues. He dissimulates to Respublica about his own self-sacrifice and that of his colleagues, while at the same time taking property and money from churches and church leaders. In the end Nemesis forgives him. He repents and promises to work for the commonwealth.


The alias assumed by Insolence.


Called "the vice of the plaie" (also Avaricia and Covetousness). He explains to the audience that he will go by the name of Policy, a name that his comrades admire. He is covered in bags into which he places whatever he can gain by guile from the woe-begone Lady Respublica, her church, and people. Throughout he shows he is obsessively paranoid that the contents of his bags will be stolen. He agrees to work with Oppression, Adulation and Insolence; his plan is to ingratiate himself so successfully with Respublica that she will ask him to bring his friends in to help manage the land. He is surprised by the unlimited greed of the three as they announce what they will claim as theirs when they gain power. He has them change their names so that they can act undetected. Having convinced Respublica that he will bring good policy to her land, he introduces her to "Reformation" (Oppression), "Authority" (Insolence), and "Honesty" (Adulation). He lists in specific political detail the sources of his enormous gains but warns his colleagues that Time will disclose everything and that Time has a daughter called Verity. He warns them too of the discontent of People whom they consequently plan to mistreat. When they are accosted by Mercy, Peace, Justice and Truth, Avarice leads the four vices in the mockery of the four sisters. When forced to turn out his bags, they are found to be full of abstractions such as usury, perjury and robbery. In the end he repents and promises to work for the commonwealth, having been forgiven by Nemesis.


An alternate name for Mercy, Misericordia.


A "ghost character." Conscience is reported by People to have disappeared along with (the genuine) Policy.


(Covetousness). An alternate name for Avarice.


(spelled Dyffamacion and Diffamation in the margin and the main text). This is a name that Adulation thinks Oppression (Reformation) goes by.


This is a name Adulation thinks Oppression (Reformation) goes by.


An alternate name by which Adulation goes.


This is the name Avarice gives to Adulation when Avarice claims Policy as his own pseudonym. Adulation does not like Hypocrisy but accepts Honesty.


This is the alias that Avarice gives to Adulation after Adulation rejects the pseudonym Hypocrisy.


Insolence is one of a set of colleagues (with Oppression and Adulation) who attach themselves to Avarice, in order to make Insolence ruler in the land. At Avarice's insistence he changes his name to Authority. After convincing Respublica that he will be good for her, he and his colleagues privately compare how much profit they have made out of exploiting their powers. They bully People and steal from the church. In the end Nemesis does not forgive him and hands him over to People for safe keeping, to be tried according to the laws at the appropriate time.


A name that is also printed Justicia in the margin. Justice is sent by God to protect Respublica. The four sisters (Verity, Justice, Peace and Mercy) promise to deliver Respublica from woe to prosperity. With the others she captures Oppression, Insolence, Avarice and Adulation and hands them over to People to guard. At the end she invites players and audience to pray for Queen Mary's Council.


Also known as Mercy and Compassion. She arrives in Act V praising God's infinite goodness and announcing that God has sent her and Truth to help Respublica. Truth tells Respublica that Policy, Reformation, Authority and Honesty (who are governing for her) are not good government but ravening wolves and promises that Justice and Peace will descend. The four sisters (Verity, Justice, Peace and Mercy) promise to deliver Respublica from woe to prosperity.


A goddess who arrives in the last scene to right what is wrong with a wheel and wing in one hand and a rudder in the other. She forgives Adulation on his assurance that he will henceforth work for the good of the commonwealth, and Avarice whom she gives to People to squeeze till restitution is complete. She does not forgive Insolence (who has sinned as Lucifer did) or Oppression (who has taken everything from the people), handing them over to People for safe custody and for a trial according to the laws when the right time arises.


Oppression is one of a set of colleagues (with Insolence and Adulation) who attach themselves to Avarice in order to make Insolence ruler. At Avarice's insistence he changes his name to Reformation. After convincing Respublica that he will be good for her, he and his colleagues privately compare how much profit they have made from the exploitation of their powers. He takes all the possessions of the bishops. Nemesis hands him over to People at play's end for trial.


Pax is a name for Peace printed in the margin.


Also written as Pax. God sends her to maintain quiet for Respublica after Misericordia arrives. The four sisters (Verity, Justice, Peace and Mercy) deliver Respublica from woe to prosperity. At the end Pax invites the players and audience to rejoice in Queen Mary.


People (the commonality) approaches Respublica, calling her, out of genuine ignorance, Lady Ricepudding Cake, to announce his devotion to her and to tell her that his situation continues to deteriorate–prices keep rising and goods grow ever more scarce. He is down-to-earth, speaking in a broad west-country accent, and his good sense makes him reject everything the men around Respublica say. He is highly regarded by Respublica but bullied and harassed by Avarice, Oppression, Insolence, and Adulation. After the four vices are banished, People steps forward uncertainly to tell Respublica how they beat him but that now things are improving. When Oppression, Insolence, Avarice and Adulation are captured by Mercy, Truth, Peace and Justice, Justice hands them over to People to guard for future trial.


This is the alias Avarice chooses to assume and one Adulation asks for but is denied.


Prologue ("a poete") addresses the Christmas audience and announces that the main matter of the play, an allegory, is to show how commonwealths cannot thrive when Avarice, Oppression, Flattery and Insolence rule. But that in God's good Time, Tranquility, and Peace will help the kingdom thrive. He asks all to thank God that Queen Mary has now come to the throne to reform former abuses. He points out that the boys acting the play are not "discussers" of the matter but are like the children watching Christ as he rode into Jerusalem, exclaiming that good has arrived.


This is the alias adopted by Oppression.


She is "a widowe" who bewails the fact that all countries are mutable and end in ruin, and acknowledges that those that are ruled by good policy recover their original good state. She accepts the offer from Avarice (Policy) to bring good policy back to her country. She offers him all her goods and agrees to accept the aid of his three colleagues introduced to her at court as "Honesty" (Adulation ), "Reformation" (Oppression), and "Authority" (Insolence). She instructs them to destroy Avarice, Oppression, and Adulation. She is full of hope that things will improve. When People insists on seeing her, she welcomes him and henceforth listens both to her advisers and to People before making any decisions. As People's discontent grows, she becomes increasingly suspicious of her advisers. She prays to God who sends her Misericordia and Truth. Truth explains that the four voices were not good government but rather ravening wolves. The four sisters Verity, Justice, Peace and Mercy help Respublica banish Avarice, Oppression, Adulation and Insolence from her land, and Nemesis arrives to deal with the transgressors.


This is the name that the uneducated People innocently uses to address Lady Respublica.


A "ghost character." Father of Verity, said by Avarice to disclose everything he sees.


This is an alternative name for Verity.


Also known as Truth, Veritee and Veritas, she is the daughter of Time. Both father and daughter tell everything they see. She tells Respublica that Policy, Reformation, Authority and Honesty of her court are not good government but ravening wolves. The four sisters (Verity, Justice, Peace and Mercy) promise to deliver Respublica from woe to prosperity. Verity announces that Nemesis will come to punish the four vices.


Prologue introduces this "Christmas devise" which is presented by "we children." "But shall boyes (saith some nowe) of suche highe mattiers plaie?" The play is for the glory of "he [that] hath sent Marye our Soveraigne and Quene . . . She is oure most wise / and most worthie Nemesis."

I.i: Avarice addresses the audience directly. He introduces himself and says the only way he may work is to assume a disguise. His favorite, he says, is to go under the name of Policy. He tells us that the noble Respublica has fallen on hard times. He determines to win her confidence and, under her protection, grow wealthy cheating her people.

I.ii: Adulation (a.k.a. Flattery), Insolence, and Oppression come in looking for their "founder" Avarice. They exit still looking for him, for he is the one who directs all of their "worthy" enterprises.

I.iii: Avarice enters, he suspects he has surprised robbers in the act of breaking into his home and thereby narrowly avoided having his precious belongings stolen. Insolence, Adulation, and Oppression come in and find Avarice. Avarice at first acts as if he does not know them-"Founder me no foundering." Finally Avarice comes to an amicable recognition of his fellows and tells them of Respublica's vulnerability. She is recently widowed. Avarice tells them of his intent to win her confidence and prosper as her counselor. He will in time bring the other three into her service to suck blood (as Pistol would later call it in HV). Insolence will be made chief among them when they come to their fortune. The others bicker for their share, and Avarice upbraids them for excluding him who will make all possible.

I.iv: The scene changes for no apparent reason other than Avarice's companions make a false exit from I.iii and are called back by Avarice. Avarice has called them back to change their names. Those they have are hateful to all that hear them. Insolence is dubbed "Authority"; Oppression becomes "Reformation"; Avarice saves "Policy" for himself though Adulation wants it; and Adulation/Flattery is renamed "Honesty." They are sent off to change into clothes befitting their new names. Avarice instructs them to assume a grave demeanor. Avarice warns them to keep their new robes closed in front so no one might look under and see their true identities.

II.i: Respublica laments her fate. She prays for deliverance from her present lowly state.

II.ii: Avarice, newly dressed as Policy, enters looking for Respublica. In an interesting bit of playwriting, the two characters do not see each other at first, Avarice addresses his hopeful comments to his money bags while Respublica addresses her hopeful comments to God. Policy/Avarice introduces himself to Respublica as her deliverer. She is almost at once taken with him and entrusts her estate to him entirely. Policy/Avarice then suggests to Respublica to employ his friends Reformation, Authority, and Honesty, which she immediately consents to do. She is happy at the prospect of her new found fortune-or so she believes it to be.

II.iii: Policy/Avarice introduces Respublica to Honesty/Adulation (Flattery), Authority/Insolence, and Reformation/Oppression who have come to "help" her. After she greets them and leaves they separate to suck the land. They exit singing.

III.i: Respublica expresses herself relieved to have been eased of her "greate greefe and smarte."

III.ii: Honesty/Flattery is pleased at having filched three hundred pounds per year and a goode manor place besides. He meets Respublica and announces that he has been working hard in her name, as has Policy ("what a prudente man"), Reformation, and Authority. People enters. His appearance surprises Honesty/Flattery who "had thought as soone to have mette here paules steeple."

III.iii: People tells Respublica that things are very bad in her commonwealth. The people are in great extremity. People says that he sees what he thinks to be the handiwork of Flattery, Oppression, Insolence, and Covetice in the land. Respublica responds that she has good counselors who are even now trying to rectify the problems, and she introduces him to Honesty, whom People says could just as easily be a flatterer as Honesty. People asks Honesty/Flattery what good he has yet done. Honesty responds that it is yet too early for his good work to be felt in the general commonwealth. People reluctantly agrees to wait a while longer. People and Respublica leave. Honesty/Flattery swears to undo People for his effrontery.

III.iv: Avarice enters cooing to his "swete bags of golde." before he and Flattery can begin a conversation, though,

III.v: Oppression enters wearily. He has undone four or five bishoprics and more half bishoprics than he can number. Oppression and Avarice flout Flattery for having gained only three hundred pounds in the same space of time ("thowe shamest our fraternitee.") Oppression relates how he took all in the name of Respublica and so met no resistance. Flattery warns them against People who "against vs all fowre with a wyde throte dothe he rore." Avarice arrives and tells them of his spoils-naming his bags for the activities in which he engaged to win them. He warns against their great enemy Time who sees all and tells all and of his daughter Verity who confirms his blabbing. He describes the emblem of Fortune, with her long forelock and rolling ball, and warns that they may have already allowed their opportunity to pass while they talked of what to do about People.

IV.i: Respublica worries over People's reports of ill treatment.

IV.ii: People meets Respublica and desires to speak with Policy, who he thought had "drownde trowe last yeare."

IV.iii: Policy/Avarice meets Respublica and People. People complains that, despite Policy's assurances, he is no better off now than when Policy began. Respublica admits that she sees no improvement in the commonwealth either. Policy/Avarice says he will bring Authority and Reformation and allow them to be charged as well as he with double-dealing.

IV.iv: Avarice conspires with Oppression and Insolence to remove Respublica by some ruse and then threaten People to keep quite about his problems. People says his piece to the "counselors," but after Respublica leaves the three vices turn on People and threaten him greatly if he does not stay at home and mind his own business. People is frightened and does as they say.

V.i: Misericordia (Compassion/Mercy) enters. She has been sent by heaven to answer Respublica's prayers for assistance.

V.ii: Misericordia meets Respublica and introduces herself and her mission. Respublica says she doesn't know who has caused the misery in the commonwealth but swears she is well directed by Policy. Misericordia says Policy is a good counselor. Policy/Avarice enters complaining of the pickpockets in the commonwealth-fearing he will lose his ill-gotten gain. He is introduced to Misericordia. She is planning to bring Verity to the commonwealth to find out who is oppressing it. Avarice leaves to strengthen himself secretly against the coming of Verity who will surely expose them. He instructs Insolence and Oppression to hinder Verity's arrival.

V.iii: Misericordia brings Verity to Respublica. She instructs Respublica to embrace Verity forever. Verity tells Respublica of the "woulves in the clothing of sheepe" who are raping her commonwealth. Justice and Peace are called for to join with Verity and Misericordia. The four sister virtues will flush out the four (male) vices.

V.iv: The four virtues meet and take Respublica to be "newe appareled."

V.v: Avarice meets with Flattery, who says that Justice and Peace have arrived from heaven. Avarice plots to discredit the four virtues and save himself. Avarice/Policy meets Respublica, who is in a new robe, and pronounces himself happy that his fiscal reforms have begun to show. He takes credit for her new-found prosperity. Respublica will not brunt his foolishness, though, and orders him away from her. He chides her for berating her benefactor. Respublica is firm and charges him to leave her. He leaves. People enters.

V.vii: People, initially afraid lest the vices punish him for seeing Respublica, is assured by her that he may speak openly to her. She hears his complaint, sympathizes, and suggests that he act as bait to entrap the vices. People readily agrees.

V.viii: The vices appear and see People. They are enraged that he would flout their warnings. The virtues trap them.

V.ix: Avarice tries to discredit the virtues by questioning why they should depart heaven to come to earth if heaven is perfect, etc. But he is answered at every turn. Ultimately he swears that he is not Avarice, but Verity reveals him by finding his gold bags hidden under his robe. He swears he got the gold for the good of Respublica, but he is not believed. The other three are exposed, as Avarice had warned they might be, when the virtues see under their robes. The punishment of the vices is reserved for Nemesis, who is summoned. People guards the vices while the virtues go to retrieve Nemesis.

V.x: Nemesis enters, immediately befriending Respublica. Flattery is called before Nemesis and tells her that he was led astray by Avarice. Avarice denies all and tells her that the other vices got more goods than he did. Flattery, who was most innocent of the crimes and who may yet turn into proper Adulation is pardoned. Avarice is ordered to disgorge his gains and then sent to prison. Insolence and Oppression are also ordered jailed. People takes them to the jail. Nemesis then turns her attention to foreign affairs. The play ends with a prayer to Queen Mary I.


The allegorical nature of the play is manifest in the characters:
  • Respublica = the commonwealth (widowed from the Catholic Church by Henry VIII).
  • The Vices = the misguided leadership of the Anglicans who parade Avarice, Oppression, Insolence, and Adulation in the forms of Policy, Reformation, Authority, and Honesty. The characters of the vices are roughly individualized; Avarice is the leader who makes the others possible; Adulation is a fool, rather dense, and easily led; Insolence is a coward that stomps and frets in V when the Virtues descend; Oppression is probably the least defined.
  • People = the English people, who feel the weight of the Anglican oppression.
  • The Virtues = the promise of the "true faith"-Truth, Compassion, Justice, and Peace.
  • Nemesis = Mary I (which is made patent in the Prologue at line 53. She is the punisher of the Anglican wrongs and the restorer of the "true faith" to the commonwealth. She saves People from the oppression of Anglican usurpation.

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Notes of Interest:

Most of the play is written in alexandrine couplets.

Boys (perhaps of the Chapel Royal) presented the play at court.

People speaks in the dialect of the country, which is seen in both Ralph Roister Doister and Gammer Gurton's Needle most significantly. But the compositor (and possibly the author-who might be Udall) does something quite interesting with the written dialect. The Old English thorn () is used for many of the words beginning with "th". This is especially odd because this quaint rusticity would be apparent only to the reader. The phoneme is exactly like that of the "th" and would go unrecognized by an audience.

The emblematic description of both Fortune and Time are given in the play. The former at, the latter at V.ii.1293-1304.

When Misericordia enters, the rhyme patter changes from couplets to ABAB (V.i) for her first speech.

The four vices are male while their opposites, the four virtues, are female. This is done in obvious deference to the Queen. The good and powerful characters are all female: Respublica, Verity, Misericordia, Justice, Pax, and especially Nemesis (who is Mary I).

The oath "Marye" is first used by People in the presence of Nemesis (l.1822) and the "marie masse" (that is the Ave Maria or "Hail Mary full of grace") is mentioned at l.1855 in Nemesis' presence. Both may indicate an verbal attempt to tie Queen Mary to the Virgin Mary and hence England to Rome and the commonwealth to Catholicism. In any case the compliment is obvious and aimed at the new sovereign.

The suggestion that Nemesis is going to turn to foreign affairs could mean that she (Mary) is going to ally herself to Rome. Or it could mean that she is going to be the true "defender of the faith" in the world-at least in the playwright's mind.

Plays to be compared:

Nicholas Udall's Ralph Roister Doister for comparison of style and the suggestion that Udall is the author of Respublica);

Sackville and Norton's Gorboduc (for the use of play as didactic medium aimed at instructing a new sovereign and justifying her reign);

Morality plays in general (for the use of virtue and vice characters in competition for the title character's soul).

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