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  • Title: Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay (Modern)
  • Textual editor: Christopher Matusiak
  • Performance editor: Peter Cockett
  • General editor: Helen Ostovich
  • Coordinating editor: Janelle Jenstad

  • Copyright Queen's Men Editions. This text may be freely used for educational, non-profit purposes; for all other uses contact the Editor.
    Author: Robert Greene
    Editor (Text): Christopher Matusiak
    Editor (Performance): Peter Cockett
    Peer Reviewed

    Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay (Modern)

    [Scene 2] [Video Sc.2]
    Enter Friar Bacon with Miles, his poor scholar, [following] with books under his arm; with them Burden, Mason, Clement, three doctors.
    175Friar Bacon
    Miles, where are you?
    Hic sum doctissime et reverendissime doctor.
    Friar Bacon
    Attulisti nos libros meos de necromantia?
    Ecce quam bonum et quam jocundum, habitares libros in unum.
    180Friar Bacon
    Now, masters of our academic state
    That rule in Oxford viceroys in your place,
    Whose heads contain maps of the liberal arts,
    Spending your time in depth of learne}d skill,
    Why flock you thus to Bacon's secret cell,
    185A friar newly stalled in Brazennose?
    Say what's your mind that I may make reply.
    Bacon, we hear that long we have suspect,
    That thou art read in magic's mystery;
    In pyromancy to divine by flames;
    190To tell by hydromancy ebbs and tides;
    By aeromancy to discover doubts,
    To plain out questions as Apollo did.
    Friar Bacon
    Well, Master Burden, what of all this?
    Marry, sir, he doth but fulfill by rehearsing of these 195names the fable of the fox and the grapes: that which is above us pertains nothing to us.
    I tell thee, Bacon, Oxford makes report,
    Nay England, and the court of Henry says
    Thou'rt making of a brazen head by art,
    200Which shall unfold strange doubts and aphorisms
    And read a lecture in philosophy,
    And by the help of devils and ghastly fiends,
    Thou mean'st, ere many years or days be past,
    To compass England with a wall of brass.
    205Friar Bacon
    And what of this?
    What of this, master? Why, he doth speak mystically, for he knows if your skill fail to make a brazen head, yet Mother Waters' strong ale will fit his turn to make him have a copper nose.
    Bacon, we come not grieving at thy skill,
    But joying that our academy yields
    A man supposed the wonder of the world;
    For if thy cunning work these miracles,
    England and Europe shall admire thy fame,
    215And Oxford shall, in characters of brass
    And statues such as were built up in Rome,
    Eternize Friar Bacon for his art.
    Then, gentle Friar, tell us thy intent.
    Friar Bacon
    Seeing you come as friends unto the friar,
    220Resolve you doctors, Bacon can by books
    Make storming Boreas thunder from his cave,
    And dim fair Luna to a dark eclipse;
    The great arch-ruler, potentate of hell,
    Trembles when Bacon bids him or his fiends
    225Bow to the force of his pentageron.
    What art can work the frolic friar knows,
    And therefore will I turn my magic books
    And strain out necromancy to the deep.
    I have contrived and framed a head of brass
    230(I made Belcephon hammer out the stuff)
    And that by art shall read philosophy;
    And I will strengthen England by my skill
    That if ten Caesars lived and reigned in Rome,
    With all the legions Europe doth contain,
    235They should not touch a grass of English ground.
    The work that Ninus reared at Babylon,
    The brazen walls framed by Semiramis,
    Carved out like to the portal of the sun,
    Shall not be such as rings the English strand
    240From Dover to the marketplace of Rye.
    Is this possible?
    I'll bring ye two or three witnesses.
    What be those?
    Marry, sir, three or four as honest devils and good 245companions as any be in hell.
    No doubt but magic may do much in this,
    For he that reads but mathematic rules
    Shall find conclusions that avail to work
    Wonders that pass the common sense of men.
    But Bacon roves a bow beyond his reach,
    And tells of more than magic can perform,
    Thinking to get a fame by fooleries.
    Have I not passed as far in state of schools
    And read of many secrets? Yet to think
    255That heads of brass can utter any voice,
    Or more, to tell of deep philosophy--
    This is a fable Aesop had forgot.
    Friar Bacon
    Burden, thou wrong'st me in detracting thus;
    Bacon loves not to stuff himself with lies.
    260But tell me 'fore these doctors, if thou dare,
    Of certain questions I shall move to thee.
    I will. Ask what thou can.
    Marry, sir, he'll straight be on your pick-pack to know whether the feminine or the masculine gender be most 265worthy.
    Friar Bacon
    Were you not yesterday, Master Burden, at Henley upon the Thames?
    I was. What then?
    Friar Bacon
    What book studied you thereon all night?
    I? None at all; I read not there a line.
    Friar Bacon
    Then, doctors, Friar Bacon's art knows naught.
    What say you to this, Master Burden? Doth he not touch you?
    I pass not of his frivolous speeches.
    Nay, Master Burden, my master, ere he hath done with you, will turn you from a doctor to a dunce, and shake you so small that he will leave no more learning in you than is in Balaam's ass.
    Friar Bacon
    Masters, for that learned Burden's skill is deep,
    280And sore he doubts of Bacon's cabalism,
    I'll show you why he haunts to Henley oft,
    Not, doctors, for to taste the fragrant air,
    But there to spend the night in alchemy,
    To multiply with secret spells of art;
    285Thus private steals he learning from us all.
    To prove my sayings true, I'll show you straight
    The book he keeps at Henley for himself.
    Nay, now my master goes to conjuration, take heed.
    Friar Bacon
    Masters, stand still; fear not. I'll show you but his 290book.
    Here he conjures.magic book
    Per omnes deos infernales Belcephon.
    Enter a woman with a shoulder of mutton on a spit and a devil.
    Oh, master, cease your conjuration or you spoil all, for here's a she-devil come with a shoulder of mutton on a spit. You have marred the devil's supper; but no doubt he thinks our college fare is slender and so hath sent you his cook with a shoulder of mutton to make it exceed.
    Oh, where am I, or what's become of me?
    Friar Bacon
    What art thou?
    Hostess at Henley, mistress of the Bell.
    Friar Bacon
    How cam'st thou here?
    As I was in the kitchen 'mongst the maids,
    305Spitting the meat against supper for my guests,
    A motion moved me to look forth of door.
    No sooner had I pried into the yard
    But straight a whirlwind hoisted me from thence,
    And mounted me aloft unto the clouds.
    310As in a trance, I thought nor feare}d naught,
    Nor know I where or whether I was ta'en,
    Nor where I am, nor what these persons be.
    Friar Bacon
    No? Know you not Master Burden?
    Oh yes, good sir, he is my daily guest.
    315What, Master Burden, t'was but yesternight
    That you and I at Henley played at cards.
    I know not what we did. A pox of all conjuring
    Now, jolly friar, tell us, is this the book
    320that Burden is so careful to look on?
    Friar Bacon
    It is.-- But, Burden, tell me now,
    Thinkest thou that Bacon's necromantic skill
    Cannot perform his head and wall of brass,
    When he can fetch thine hostess in such post?
    I'll warrant you, master, if Master Burden could conjure as well as you, he would have his book every night from Henley to study on at Oxford.
    Burden, what, are you mated by this frolic friar?--
    Look how he droops; his guilty conscience
    330Drives him to bash and makes his hostess blush.
    Friar Bacon
    Well, mistress, for I will not have you missed,
    You shall to Henley to cheer up your guests
    'Fore supper 'gin.-- Burden, bid her adieu;
    Say farewell to your hostess 'fore she goes.--
    335[To the devil] Sirrah, away, and set her safe at home!
    Master Burden, when shall we see you at Henley?
    Exeunt Hostess and the devil.
    The devil take thee and Henley too.
    Master, shall I make a good motion?
    340Friar Bacon
    What's that?
    Marry, sir, now that my hostess is gone to provide supper, conjure up another spirit and send Doctor Burden flying after.
    Friar Bacon
    Thus, rulers of our academic state,
    345You have seen the friar frame his art by proof,
    And as the college called Brazennose
    Is under him and he the master there,
    So surely shall this head of brass be framed
    And yield forth strange and uncouth aphorisms;
    350And hell and Hecate shall fail the friar
    But I will circle England round with brass.
    So be it, et nunc et semper, amen.
    Exeunt omnes.