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Play Called the Four P.P.


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A: John Heywood Pf:c.1520 Pb:c.1543 G: Interlude in rhyming couplets S: England, medieval period C: 4mThe four P's argue their cases in turn: The Palmer (a pilgrim who has visited the Holy Land) boasts of all the shrines he has seen. The Pardoner (a man licensed to sell papal indulgences) questions the value of these pilgrimages, when the Palmer could have found redemption merely by buying a pardon. The Pothecary (apothecary or pharmacist) points out that nobody dies in a state of grace without help from him. The Pedlar questions the need for the other three, whereas he keeps women happy by selling them trifles. The Pedlar now challenges the other three to a contest in lying. The Pardoner boasts about his absurd relics and the Pothecary about his fatuous cures, but the Palmer tops them both by claiming that on all his travels he never saw a woman who lost her temper.

A: John Heywood Pf:c.1520 Pb:c.1543 G: Interlude in rhyming couplets S: England, medieval period C: 4m

Like Fulgens and Lucrece, this interlude, intended as an entertainment during a banquet, represents a link between the medieval morality play and the robust secular drama of the Elizabethan period. Although there is neither action nor plot development, the confrontation between the four characters is enlivened with wit, bawdy comments, and wordplay. The stereotype of the angry woman, supposedly never encountered by the lying Palmer, was to be explored more interestingly by Shakespeare in The Taming of the Shrew.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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