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Medwall, Henry


Subject Literature » Renaissance Literature

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405194495.2012.x


Henry Medwall (1462–after 1501) was, from 1475, educated at Eton College, a school established a few decades earlier by Henry VI and, from 1480 to 1483, at its sister institution of higher education, King's College, part of the University of Cambridge. After ordination as a deacon, he studied canon law, held benefices and worked as a chaplain to Cardinal John Morton, archbishop of Canterbury ( Emden 1963 ; Nelson 1980b ). Little is known of his life beyond a few legal dealings and visits to his old college in Cambridge ( Nelson 1980a ; MacLean & Nelson 1997 ), but the ambience of Morton's household calls to mind the ambitious men, often learned or with interests in the studia humanitatis (the humanist study and imitation of antiquity), among whom Medwall's plays are thought to have been written and first performed. The household at various times included the grammarian John Holt, the ecclesiast and book-owner Robert Sherborne, and Thomas More ( Wakelin 2007 ). One of the most famous anecdotes of More's youth reports that while in Morton's household in the 1490s More leapt up to take part in a play, to witty effect ( Nelson 1980b ); the story bears some resemblance to the opening of Medwall's play Fulgens and Lucres , in which two apparent onlookers, called simply ‘A’ and ‘B’ in the speech headings, leap up and decide to join in the play. As A says to B, ‘I never uside suche ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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