Margaret Cavendish standing on a pedestal with Athena standing to her left and Apollo standing to her right.

Frontispiece from Plays, Never before Printed (1668)

Written by the
Excellent Princess,

Printed by A. Warren, for John Martyn, James
Allestry, and Tho. Dicas, at the Bell in
Saint Paul’s Church Yard, 1662.


To those that do delight in Scenes and wit,
I dedicate my Book, for those I writ;
Next to my own Delight, for I did take
Much pleasure and delight these Playes to make;
For all the time my Playes a making were,
My brain the Stage, my thoughts were acting there.


My resolution was, that when I had done writing, to have dedicated all my works in gross to your Lordship; and I did verily believe that this would have been my last work: but I find it will not, unless I dye before I have writ my other intended piece. And as for this Book of Playes, I believe I should never have writ them, nor have had the Capacity nor Ingenuity to have writ Playes, had not you read to me some Playes which your Lordship had writ, and lye by for a good time to be Acted, wherein your Wit did Create a desire in my Mind to write Playes also, although my Playes are very unlike those you have writ, for your Lordships Playes have as it were a natural life, and a quick spirit in them, whereas mine are like dull dead statues, which is the reason I send them forth to be printed, rather than keep them concealed in hopes to have them first Acted; and this advantage I have, that is, I am out of the fear of having them hissed off from the Stage, for they are not like to come thereon; but were they such as might deserve applause, yet if Envy did make a faction against them, they would have had a publick Condemnation; and though I am not such a Coward, as to be affraid of the hissing Serpents, or

stinged Tongues of Envy, yet it would have made me a little Melancholy to have my harmless and innocent Playes go weeping from the Stage, and whipt by malicious and hard-hearted censurers; but the truth is, I am careless, for so I have your applause I desire no more, for your Lordships approvement is a sufficient satisfaction to me

My Lord,

Your Lordships honest Wife,
and faithfull Servant,

                                                                               M. N.


I must ask pardon, for that I said I should not trouble you with more of my works than this Book of Playes; but since I have considered with my self, there is one work more, which is very sit for me to do, although I shall not be able to do it so well as the subject will deserve, being the Life of my Noble Lord; but that work will require some time in the gathering together some several passages; for although I mean not to write of all the particulars of these times, yet for as much as is concerning that subject I shall write of, it will be requirable; but it is a work that will move so slowly, as perchance I shall not live to finish it; but howsoever, I will imploy my time about it, and it will be a satisfaction to my life that I indeavour it.

M. N.


The reason why I put out my Playes in print, before they are Acted, is, first, that I know not when they will be Acted, by reason they are in English, and England doth not permit, I will not say, of Wit, yet not of Playes; and if they should, yet by reason all those that have been bred and brought up to Act, are dead, or dispersed, and it would be an Act of some time, not only to breed and teach some Youths to Act, but it will require some time to prove whether they be good Actors or no; for if they are not bred to it whilst they be young, they will never be good Actors when they are grown up to be men; for although some one by chance may have naturally, a facility to Action, and a Volubility of Speech, and a good memory to learn, and get the Parts by heart, or wrote, yet it is very unlikely, or indeed impossible, to get a whole Company of good Actors without being taught and brought up thereto; the other reason is, that most of my Playes would seem tedious upon the Stage, by reason they are somewhat long, although most are divided into first and second Parts; for having much variety in them, I could not possibly make them shorter, and being long, it might tire the Spectators, who are forced, or bound by the rules of Civility to sit out a Play, if they be not sick; for to go away before a Play is ended, is a kind of an assront, both to the Poet and the Players; yet, I believe none of my Playes are so long as Ben. Johnson’s Fox, or Alchymist, which in truth, are somewhat too long; but for the Readers, the length of the Playes can be no trouble, nor inconveniency, because they may read as short or as long a time as they please, without any disrespect to the Writer; but some of my Playes are short enough; but the printing of my Playes spoils them for ever to be Acted; for what men are acquainted with, is despised, at lest neglected; for the newness of Playes, most commonly, takes the Spectators, more than the Wit, Scenes, or Plo•, so that my Playes would seem lame or tired in action, and dull to hearing on the Stage, for which reason, I shall never desire they should be Acted; but if they delight or please the Readers, I shall have as much satisfaction as if I had the hands of applause from the Spectators.

M. N.


Although I expect my Playes will be found fault with, by reason I have not drawn the several persons presented in a Circular line, or to a Trianglar point, making all the Actors to meet at the latter end upon the Stage in a flock together; likewise, that I have not made my Comedies of one dayes actions or passages; yet I have adventured to publish them to the World: But to plead in my Playes behalf, first, I do not perceive any reason why that the several persons presented should be all of an acquaintance, or that there is a necessity to have them of one Fraternity, or to have a relation to each other, or linck’d in alliance as one Family; when as Playes are to present the general Follies, Vanities, Vices, Humours, Dispositions, Passions, Affections, Fashions, Customs, Manners, and practices of the whole World of Mankind, as in several persons; also particular Follies, Vanities, Vices, Humours, Passions, Affections, Fashions, Customs, Fortunes, and the like, in particular persons; also the Sympathy and Antipathy of Dispositions, Humours, Passions, Customs, and Fashions of several persons; also the particular Virtues and Graces in several persons, and several Virtues and Graces in particular persons, and all these Varieties to be drawn at the latter end into one piece, as into one Company, which in my opinion shews neither Usual, Probable, nor Natural. For since the World is wide and populated, and their various actions dispersed, and spread about by each particular, and Playes are to present them severally, I perceive no reason they should force them together in the last Act, as in one Community, bringing them in as I may say by Head and Shoulders, making the persons of each Humour, good Fortunes, Misfortunes, Nations and Ages, to have relations to each other; but in this I have not followed the steps of precedent Poets, for in my opinion, I think it as well, if not better, if a Play ends but with two persons, or one person upon the Stage; besides, I would have my Playes to be like the Natural course of all things in the World, as some dye sooner, some live longer, and some are newly born, when some are newly dead, and not all to continue to the last day of Iudgment; so my Scenes, some last longer than othersome, and some are ended when others are begun; likewise some of my Scenes have no acquaintance or relation to the rest of the Scenes, although in one and the same Play, which is the reason many of my Playes will not end as other Playes do, especially Comedies, for in Tragi-Comedies I think Poets do not alwayes make all lye bleeding together; but I think for the most part they do; but the want of this swarm in the last Act and Scene, may make my Playes seem dull and vacant, but I love ease so well, as I hate constraint even in my works; for I had rather have a dull easy life, than be forced to active gayeties, so I had rather my Playes should end dully than unnecessarily be forced into one Company, but some of my Playes are gathered into one sheaf or bundel in the latter end. Likewise my Playes

may be Condemned, because they follow not the Antient Custome, as the learned sayes, which is, that all Comedies should be so ordered and composed, as nothing should be presented therein, but what may be naturally, or usually practiced or Acted in the World in the compass of one day; truly in my opinion those Comedies would be very flat and dull, and neither profitable nor pleasant, that should only present the actions of one day; for though Ben. Johnson as I have heard was of that opinion, that a Comedy cannot be good, nor is a natural or true Comedy, if it should present more than one dayes action, yet his Comedies that he hath published, could never be the actions of one day; for could any rational person think that the whole Play of the Fox could be the action of one day? or can any rational person think that the Alchymist could be the action of one day? as that so many several Cozenings could be Acted in one day, by Captain Face and Doll Common; and could the Alchymist make any believe they could make gold in one day? could they burn so many Coals, and draw the purses of so many, or so often from one person, in one day? and the like is in all his Playes, not any of them presents the actions of one day, although it were a day at the Poles, but of many dayes, nay I may say some years. But to my reason, I do not perceive a necessity that Comedies should be so closely packt or thrust up together; for if Comedies are either to delight, or to profit, or to both, they must follow no other rule or example, but to put them into Scenes and Acts, and to order their several discources in a Comedy, so as Physicians do their Cordials, wherein they mix many several Ingrediences together into one Electuary, as sharp, bitter, salt, and sweet, and mix them so, as they are both pleasing to the Tast, and comfortable to the Stomach; so Poets should order the several Humours, Passions, Customs, Manners, Fashions, and practice of Mankind, as to intermix them so, as to be both delightfull to the Mind and Senses, and profitable to the Life; also Poets should do as Physicians or Apothecaries, which put not only several sorts, but several kinds of Drugs into one Medicine, as Minerals and Vegetables together, which are very different; also they will mix several Druggs and Simples out of several Climates and Countries, gathered out from all the parts of the World, and upon occasion they will mix new and old Simples together, although of one and the same sort and kind; so Poets both in their Comedies and Tragedies, must, or at leastwise may, represent several Nations, Governments, People, Customs, Fashions, Manners, Natures, Fortunes, Accidents, Actions, in one Play; as also several times of Ages to one person if occasion requires, as from Childhood to Manhood in one Play; for Poets are to describe in Playes the several Ages, Times, Actions, Fortunes, Accidents and Humours in Nature, and the several Customs, Manners, Fashions and Speeches of men: thus Playes are to present the natural dispositions and practices of Mankind; also they are to point at Vanity, laugh at Follies, disgrace Baseness, and persecute Vice; likewise they are to extol Virtue, and to honour Merit, and to praise the Graces, all which makes a Poet Divine, their works edifying to the Mind or Soul, profitable to the Life, delightfull to the Senses, and recreative to Time; but Poets are like Preachers, some are more learned than others, and some are better Orators than others, yet from the worst there may be some good gained by them, and I do not despair, although but a Poetress, but that my works may be some wayes or other serviceable to my Readers, which if they be, my time in writing them is not lost, nor my Muse unprofitable.

M. N.


I cannot chuse but mention an erronious opinion got into this our Modern time and men, which is, that it should be thought a crime or debasement for the nobler sort to Act Playes, especially on publick Theatres, although the Romans were of another opinion, for not only the noble youth did Act in publick, but some of the Emperours themselves; though I do not commend it in the Emperours, who should spend their times in realities, and not in feigning; yet certainly it was commendable in the noblest youths, who did practice what ought to be followed or skinn’d: for certainly there is no place, wayes or means, so edifying to Youth as publick Theatres, not only to be Spectators but Actors; for it learns them gracefull behaviours and demeanors, it puts Spirit and Life into them, it teaches them Wit, and makes their Speech both voluble and tanable, besides, it gives them Confidence, all which ought every man to have, that is of quality. But some will say if it would work such effects, why are not mercenary Players benefited so thereby? I answer, that they only Act for the lucre of Gain, and not for the grace of Behaviour, the sweetness of Speech, nor the increasing of Wit, so as they only Act as Parrots speak, by wrote, and not as Learning gives to Education; for they making not a benefit of the wit, but only by the wit receive it; not neither into their consideration, understanding, nor delight, for they make it a work of labour, and not of delight, or pleasure, or honour; for they receive it into the memory, and no farther than for to deliver it out, as Servants or Factors to sell, and not keep it as purchasors to their own use; that if the reason that as soon as the Play is done, their wit and becoming graces are at an end, whereas the nobler sort, that Act not for mercenary Profit, but for Honour, and becoming, would not only strive to Act well upon the Stage, but to practise their actions when off from the Stage; besides, it would keep the youths from misimploying time with their foolish extravagancies, deboist luxuries, and base Vices, all which Idleness and vacant time produceth; and in my opinion, a publick Theatre were a shorter way of education than their tedious and expensive Travels, or their dull and solitary Studies; for Poets teach them more in one Play, both of the Nature of the World and Mankind, by which they learn not only to know other men, but their own selves, than they can learn in any School, or in any Country or Kingdome in a year; but to conclude, a Poet is the best Tutor, and a Theatre is the best School that is for Youth to be educated by or in,

M. N.


I know there are many Scholastical and Pedantical persons that will condemn my writings, because I do not keep strictly to the Masculine and Feminine Genders, as they call them as for example, a Lock and a Key, the one is the Masculine Gender, the other the Feminine Gender, so Love is the Masculine Gender, Hate the Feminine Gender, and the Furies are shees, and the Graces are shees, the Virtues are shees, and the seven deadly Sins are shees, which I am sorry for; but I know no reason but that I may as well make them Hees for my use, as others did Shees, or Shees as others did Hees. But some will say, if I did do so, there would be no forms or rules of Speech to be understood by; I answer, that we may as well understand the meaning or sense of a Speaker or Writer by the names of Love or Hate, as by the names of he or she, and better: for the division of Masculine and Feminine Genders doth consound a Scholar more, and takes up more time to learn them, than they have time to spend; besides, where one doth rightly understand the difference, a hundred, nay a thousand do not, and yet they are understood, and to be understood is the end of all Speakers and Writers; so that if my writings be understood, I desire no more; and as for the nicities of Rules, Forms, and Terms, I renounce, and profess, that if I did understand and know them strictly, as I do not, I would not follow them: and if any dislike my writings for want of those Rules, Forms, and Terms, let them not read them, for I had rather my writings should be unread than be read by such Pedantical Sholastical persons.

M. N.


Tis likely you will condemn my Playes at being dull and flat, by reason they have not the high seasoning of Poetical Salt; but Suger is more commonly used amongst our Sex than Salt. But I fear my Wit is tastless, which I am sorry for; for though a Satyrical Speaker is discommendable, being for the most part abusive; for Bitter reproofs only are fit for rigid Pedants, Censuring and backbiting sit for pot Companions, and sharp replies is a wit for mean persons, being in a degree of scolding; a Ralery Wit, for Bussions and Ieslers which abuse under the Veil of Mirth, Familiarity, and Freedome; whereas a generous discoursitive Wit, although it be free, yet it is sweet and pleasing: thus as I said Satyrical Speakers are discommendable, yet Satyrical Writers are highly to be praised, as most profitable, because those reprove only the generality, as the general Vices, Follies, and errors of Mankind, poiming at no particular; and the sharpest Writers are most commonly the sweetest Speakers. But I have observed one general Folly amongst many which is, that it is expected by most Readers that the Writers should speak as they write, which would be very ridiculous; as for example, a Lyrick Poet should speak nothing but Sonnets, a Comedian or Tragedian Poet should speak nothing but set Speeches, or blanck Verse, or such Speeches which are only prover to present such and such humours, which in ordinary discourse would be improper; and though Virgil whose greatest praise is Language, yet I do verily believe he did not speak in his ordinary Conversation in such a stile, forms and Speeches, nor in such high, sine, and choice Latin, nor in such high and lofty expressions, nor apt similitudes, nor the sence of his discourse wrapt in such Metaphors, as in his writings; nay Eloquent Speakers or Orators do not alwayes speak Orations, but upon an occasion, and at set times, but their ordinary Conversation is with ordinary discourses; for I do verily believe, the greatest and most Eloquents Orators that ever were in the World, in their ordinary Conversation, converst and spoke but as other men. Besides, in Common and ordinary Conversations, the most Wittiest, Learneelst, and Eloquentest Men, are forced to speak according to the Wit, Learning, Language, and Capacities of those they are in Company and Coversation with, unless they will speak all themselves, which will be no Conversation: for in Conversation every particular person must have his turn and time of speaking as well as hearing; yet such is the folly of the World, as to despise the Authors of Witty, Learned and Eloquent Writings, if their Conversations be as other mens, and yet would laugh at them, or account them mad, if they should speak otherwise, as out of this ordinary way; but the greatest talkers are not the best writers, which is the cause women cannot be good Writers; for we for fear of being thought Fools, make our selves Fools, in striving to express some Wit, whereas if we had but that power over our selves as to keep

silence, we perchance might be thought Wits, although we were Fools, but to keep silence is impossible for us to do, so long as we have Speech we shall talk, although to no purpose, for nothing but Death can force us to silence, for we often talk in our Sleep; but to speak without partiality, I do not perceive that men are free from this imperfection, nor from condemning us, although they are guilty of the same fault; but we have this advantage of men, which is, that we know this imperfection in our selves, although we do not indeavour to mend it; but men are so Partial to themselves, as not to perceive this imperfection in themselves, and so they cannot mend it; but in this, will not or cannot is as one; but this discourse hath brought me to this, that if I have spoke at any time to any person or persons impertinently, improperly, untimely, or tediously, I ask their pardon: but lest I should be impertinently tedious in this Epistle, and so commit a fault in asking pardon, I leave my Readers to what may be more pleasing to them.

M. N.


I make no question but my Playes will be censured, and those Censurors severe, but I hope not malicious; but they will perchance say that my Playes are too serious, by reason there is no rediculous Iest in them, nor wanton Love, nor Impossibilities; also ‘tis likely they will say that there are no plots, nor designs, nor subtil Contrivances, and the like; I answer, that the chief Plots of my Playes were to imploy my idle time, the designs to please and entertain my Readers, and the contrivance was to join edifying Profit and Delight together, that my Readers may neither lose their time, nor grow weary in the reading; but if they find my Playes neither Edifying, nor Delightfull, I shall be sorry; but if they find either, I shall be pleased, and if they find both, I shall much rejoyce, that my time hath been imployed to some good use.

M. N.


I have heard that such Poets that write Playes, seldome or never join or sow the several Scenes together; they are two several Professions, at least not usual for rare Poets to take that pains; like as great Taylors, the Master only cuts out and shapes, and his Iourny-men and Apprentices join and sow them together; but I like as a poor Taylor was forced to do all my self, as to cut out, shape, join, and sow each several Scene together, without any help or direction; wherefore I fear they are not so well done but that there will be many faults found; but howsoever, I did my best indeavour, and took great pains in the ordering and joining thereof, for which I hope my Learned Readers will pardon the errors therein, and excuse me the worker thereof.

M. N.


My Lord was pleased to illustrate my Playes with some Scenes of his own Wit, to which I have set his name, that my Readers may know which are his, as not to couzen them, in thinking they are mine; also Songs, to which my Lords name is set; for I being no Lyrick Poet, my Lord supplied that defect of my Brain with the superfluity of his own Brain; thus our Wits join as in Matrimony, my Lords the Masculine, mine the Feminine Wit, which is no small glory to me, that we are Married, Souls, Bodies, and Brains, which is a treble marriage, united in one Love, which I hope is not in the power of Death to dissolve; for Souls may love, and Wit may live, though Bodies dye.

M. N.

I must trouble my Noble Readers to write of one thing more, which is concerning the Reading of Playes; for Playes must be read to the nature of those several humours, or passions, as are exprest by Writing: for they must not read a Scene as they would read a Chapter; for Scenes must be read as if they were spoke or Acted. Indeed Comedies should be read a Mimick way, and the sound of their Voice must be according to the sense of the Scene; and as for Tragedies, or Tragick Scenes, they must not be read in a pueling whining Voice, but a sad serious Voice, as deploring or complaining: but the truth is there are as few good Readers as good Writers; indeed an ill Reader is, as great a disadvantage to wit as wit can have, unless it be ill Acted, for then it ‘tis doubly disgraced, both in the Voice and Action, whereas in Reading only the voice is imployed; but when as a Play is well and skillfully read, the very sound of the Voice that enters through the Ears, doth present the Actions to the Eyes of the Fancy as lively as if it were really Acted; but howsoever Writings must take their Chance, and I leave my Playes to Chance and Fortune, as well as to Censure and Reading.

M. N.

To the Lady Marchioness of Newcastle
upon her Playes.

Terence and Plautus Wits we now do scorn,
Their Comick Socks worn out, in pieces torn,
Only their rags of Wit remain as toyes
For Pedants to admire, to teach School Boyes;
It is not time hath wasted all their Fame,
But your high Phancies, and your nobler flame,
Which burnt theirs up in their own ashes lies,
Nor Phoenix like e’r out of those will rise;
Old Tragick Buskins now are thrown away,
When we read your each Passion in each Play,
No stupid block or stony heart forbears
To drown their Cheeks in Seas of salter Tears;
Such power you have in Tragick, Comick stile,
When for to fetch a tear or make a smile,
Still at your pleasure all our passions ly
Obedient to your pen, to laugh or cry;
So even with the thread of Natures fashion,
As you play on her heart-strings still of passion;
So we are all your Subjects in each Play,
Unwilling willingly still to obey;
Or have a thought but what you make or draw
Us by the power of your wits great law;
Thus Emperess in Soveraign power yours fits
Over the wise, and tames Poetick wits.

W. Newcastle.

A General Prologue to all my Playes.

NOBLE Spectators, do not think to see
Such Playes, that’s like Ben. Johnsons Alchymie,
Nor Fox, nor Silent Woman: for those Playes
Did Crown the Author with exceeding praise;
They were his Master-pieces, and were wrought
By wits Invention, and his labouring thought,
And his Experience brought Materials store,
His reading several Authors brought much more:
What length of time he took those Plays to write,
I cannot guess, not knowing his Wits flight;
But I have heard, Ben. Johnsons Playes came forth,
To the Worlds view, as things of a great worth;
Like Forein Emperors, which do appear
Unto their Subjects, not ‘bove once a year;
So did Ben. Johnsons Playes so rarely pass,
As one might think they long a writing was.
But my poor Playes, like to a common rout,
Gathers in throngs, and heedlesly runs out,
Like witless Fools, or like to Girls and Boyes,
Goe out to shew new Clothes, or such like toyes:
This shews my Playes have not such store of wit,
Nor subtil plots, they were so quickly writ,
So quickly writ, that I did almost cry
For want of work, my time for to imploy:
Sometime for want of work, I’m forc’d to play,
And idlely to cast my time away:
Like as poor Labourers, all they desire,
Is, to have so much work, it might them tire:
Such difference betwixt each several brain,
Some labour hard, and offer life to gain;
Some lazie lye, and pampred are with ease,
And some industrious are, the World to please:
Some are so quick, their thoughts do move so fast,
They never stay to mold, or to forecast:
Some take great pains to get, and yet are poor,
And some will steal, for to increase their store:
Some brains know not what Subjects for to chuse,
And with considering, they their wit do lose:
Some only in designs do spend their time,
And some without designs do only rhime;

And some do take more pains a Plot to lay,
Than other some to plot, and write a Play.
As for Ben. Johnsons brain, it was so strong,
He could conceive, or judge, what’s right, what’s wrong:
His Language plain, significant and free,
And in the English Tongue, the Masterie:
Yet Gentle Shakespear had a fluent Wit,
Although less Learning, yet full well he writ;
For all his Playes were writ by Natures light,
Which gives his Readers, and Spectators sight.
But Noble Readers, do not think my Playes,
Are such as have been writ in former daies;
As Johnson, Shakespear, Beamont, Fletcher writ;
Mine want their Learning, Reading, Language, Wit:
The Latin phrases I could never tell,
But Johnson could, which made him write so well.
Greek, Latin Poets, I could never read,
Nor their Historians, but our English Speed;
I could not steal their Wit, nor Plots out take;
All my Playes Plots, my own poor brain did make:
From Plutarchs story I ne’r took a Plot,
Nor from Romances, nor from Don Quixor,
As others have, for to assist their Wit,
But I upon my own Foudation writ;
Like those that have a little patch of Land,
Even so much whereon a house may stand:
The Owner builds a house, though of no shew,
A Cottage warm and clean, though thatch’d and low;
Vitruvius Art and Skill he doth not take,
For to design, and so his house to make;
Nor Carpenters, nor Masons doth not hire,
But builds a house himself, whole and intire:
Materials none from forein parts are brought;
Nor hath he Stone and Timber with art wrought;
But some sound Tree, which on his ground did grow,
Which he cuts down with many a labouring blow;
And with his hatchet, and his saw, he cuts
His Tree in many parts, those parts he puts
In several places, beams, posts, planchers layes,
And thus a house with his own stock doth raise:
He steals nor borrows not of any Neighbour,
But lives contentedly of his own labour;
And by his labour, he may thrive, and live
To be an old rich man, and then may leave
His Wealth, to build a Monument of Fame,
Which may for ever keep alive his name.
Iust so, I hope, the works that I have writ,
Which are the buildings of my natural wit;
My own Inheritance, as Natures child,
But the Worlds Vanities would me beguild:
But I have thriftly been, houswiv’d my time,
And built both Cottages of Prose and Rhime;

All the materials in my head did grow,
All is my own, and nothing do I owe:
But all that I desire when as I dye,
My memory in my own Works my lye:
And when as others build them Marble Tombs,
To inurn their dust, and fretted vaulted Rooms,
I care not where my dust, or bones remain,
So my Works live, the labour of my brain.
I covet not ae stately, cut, carv’d Tomb,
But that my Works, in Fames house may have room:
Thus I my poor built Cottage am content,
When that I dye, may be my Monument.


Enter 3. Gentlemen.

1. Gentleman. Come Tom will you goe to a play?

2. Gentleman. No

1. Gentleman. Why?

2. Gentleman. Because there is so many words, and so little wit, as the words tire me more than the wit delights me; and most commonly there is but one good part or humour, and all the rest are forced in for to enterline that part, or humour;

Likewise not above one or two good Actors, the rest are as ill Actors as the parts they Act, besides their best and principle part or humour is so redious, that I hate at last what I liked at first, for many times a part is very good to the third Act, but continued to the fifth is stark naught.

1. Gentleman. The truth is, that in some Playes the Poets runs so long in one humour, as he runs himself out of breath.

3. Gentleman. Not only the Poet but the humour he writes of seems to be as broken-winded.

1. Gentleman. I have heard of a broken-winded Horse, but never heard of a broken-winded Poet, nor of a broken-winded Play before.

3. Gentleman. I wonder why Poets will bind themselves, so as to make every humour they write, or present, to run quite through their Play.

2. Gentleman. Bind say you? they rather give themselves line and liberty, nay they are so far from binding, as for the most part they stretch the Line of a humour into pieces.

3. Gentleman. Let me tell you, that if any man should write a Play wherein he should present an humour in one Act, and should not continue it to the end: although it must be stretched, as you say, to make it hold out, he would be condemned, and not only accounted an ill Poet, but no Poet, for it would be accounted as ill as wanting a Rhime in a Copie of Verses, or a word too short, or too much in a number, for which a Poet is condemned, and for a word that is not spell’d right, he is damned for ever.

1. Gentleman. Nay, he is only damned if he doth not write strictly to the Orthographie.

3. Gentleman. Scholars only damne Writers and Poets for Orthographie, but for the others, they are damned by the generality: that is, not only all readers, but all that are but hearers of the works.

1. Gentleman. The generality for the most part is not foolishly strict, or rigid as particulars are.

3. Gentleman. Yes faith, they are led by one Bell-weather like a company of silly Sheep.


1. Gentleman. Well, if I were to write a Play, I would write the length of a humour according to the strength of the humour and breadth of my wit. Let them judge me and condemn as they would; for though some of the past, and present ages be erroniously or malitiously foolish in such cases; yet the future Ages may be more wise, and better natur’d as to applaud what the others have condemned.

But prithy Tom let us goe.

2. Gentleman. No, I will not goe for the reasons before mentioned, which is, they tire me with their empty words, dull speeches, long parts, tedious Acts, ill Actors; and the truth is, theres not enough variety in an old play to please me.

1. Gentleman. There is variety of that which is bad, as you have divided it, but it seemes you love youth and variety in playes, as you doe in Mistresse.

3. Gentleman. Playes delights A•sorous men as much as a Mistris doth.

1. Gentleman. Nay, faith more, for a man and his Mistris is soon out of breath in their discourse, and then they know not what to say, and when they are at a Non-pluss, they would be glad to be quit of each other, yet are ashamed to part so soon, and are weary to stay with each other long, when a Play entertaines them with Love, and requires not their answers, nor forceth their braines, nor pumps their wits; for a Play doth rather fill them than empty them.

2. Gentleman. Faith most Playes doth rather fill the spectators with wind, than with substance, with noise, than with newes;

1. Gentleman. This Play that I would have you go to, is a new Play.

2. Gentleman. But is there newes in the Play, that is (is there new wit, fancyes, or new Scenes) and not taken our of old storyes, or old Playes newly translated.

1. Gentleman. I know not that, but this Play was writ by a Lady, who on my Conscience hath neither Language, nor Learning, but what is native and naturall.

2. Gentleman. A woman write a Play!

Out upon it; out upon it, for it cannot be good, besides you say she is a Lady, which is the likelyer to make the Play worse, a woman and a Lady to write a Play; fye, fye.

3. Gentleman. Why may not a Lady write a good Play?

2. Gentleman. No, for a womans wit is too weak and too conceived to write a Play.

1. Gentleman. But if a woman hath wit, or can write a good Play, what will you say then.

2. Gentleman. Why, I will say no body will believe it, for if it be good, they will think she did not write it, or at least say she did not, besides the very being a woman condemnes it, were it never so excellent and care, for men will not allow women to have wit, or we men to have reason, for if we allow them wit, we shall lose our prehemency.

1. Gentleman. If you will not goe Tom, farewell; for I will go set this Play, let it be good, or bad.

2. Gentleman. Nay stay, I will go with thee, for I am contented to cast away so much time for the sake of the sex. Although I have no saith of the Authresses wit.

3. Gentleman. Many a reprobate hath been converted and brought ••repentance by hearing a good Sermon, and who knowes but that you may be converted from your erroneous opinion; by seeing this Play, and brought to coconfesse that a Lady may have wit.