A Pleasant Comedy

Called a Mayden-head Well Lost. As it hath beene publickly acted at the Cocke-pit in Drury-land with much Applause by her Majesties Servants. Written by Thomas Heywood. First published in 1634 this was a popular play that was reprinted several times. The plot was typically labyrinthine and involved Julia the daughter of the Duke of Milan who discovers she is pregnant just before she is supposed to be marrying the Prince of Parma.

The introductory ‘Letter to the Reader’ is interesting as in sounds a note of caution to indicate that innocent entertainment like this might become a bone of contention: ‘this can be drawn within the critical censure of that most horrible Histriomatix, whose uncharitable doome having damned all such to the flames of Hell, hath itself already suffered a most remarkeable fire here upon earth’. Histriomatix was written by the puritan William Prynne and was a scathing attack on the Rennaissance theatre and festivals such as Christmas. It was a foretaste of the religious turmoil that was just around the corner.

The image is an engraving from the front page and shows a scene from the play. Most of the men are dressed in doublet, hat and falling band, but note the clown on the right of the table in a long checkered petticoat and striped hat. This was the uniform of the fool; Tom Skelton of Muncaster Castle, the original Tom Fool was roughly contemporary and was painted in a similar garb. Julia is pictured in a petticoat, bodice and a decorated collar.

 

Screen Shot 2013-10-31 at 16.15.06

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