While clearly a product of humanist education, Henry Medwall’s Fulgens and Lucres wears its learning very lightly, even satirically. It relegates a formal debate for the marriage favour of Lucres, daughter of Roman senator Fulgens, to an inset play performed by recognizably retrograde actors, as opposed to the unpredictably inane—but much more dramatically interesting—actions of A and B. In so doing Fulgens and Lucres constantly opposes the cultural input of its own interior Roman debat play, unsettling preconceived moral forms to assert instead its own ludicrous significance as English comedy. Hereby, the play makes a vital and previously unexamined incursion into one of the most significant effects of metadrama. It foregrounds a sense of insecurity through the crossing of boundaries between audience(s) and performer(s) to inform a wider consciousness of class, authority, and autonomy. Indeed, the very title Fulgens and Lucres masks the real emphasis of the play on a newly emergent, nameless English comic duo, two masterless men—unemployed, ineffectual, well-meaning, and clever—who constantly place the emphasis of this play where it really belongs: in the farcically energetic now of comic performance.
Rick Bowers is professor of English at the University of Alberta and author of Radical Comedy in Early Modern England (Ashgate 2008). He has an article titled 'Shakespearean Celebrity in America: The Strange Performative Afterlife of George Frederick Cooke' forthcoming in Theatre History Studies.
'How to get from A to B: Fulgens and Lucres, Histrionic Power, and the Invention of the English Comic Duo'.
14.1 (2011): 45-59 (paper). Article 17.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.mcmaster.ca/earlytheatre/vol14/iss1/17