Dramatic Theory and Lucres' ‘Discretion’

Kent Cartwright

in The Oxford Handbook of Tudor Literature

Published in print September 2009 | ISBN: 9780199205882
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Literature

Dramatic Theory and Lucres' ‘Discretion’


This article focuses on Henry Medwall's early Tudor play Fulgens and Lucres (c.1491). Fulgens and Lucres proffers two theories of drama — the episodic and the interconnective — a bounty resulting from the coexistence of its ‘main plot’ and developed ‘sub-plot’. The article takes the interconnective theory as its hypothesis in order to consider the sub-plot's satire of the main plot as seriously meant. From that vantage point, the sub-plot turns the main plot's tidy, over-idealized heredity-merit debate into comic melodrama. The sub-plot in Fulgens and Lucres makes its didactic truth appear forced and unreal. This difference marks a transition in drama, as messy secularity begins to nudge aside soteriology. In Fulgens and Lucres, the case for public service may triumph dutifully over that for ancestry, but at another level, the sub-plot makes contingent the ostensible inevitability of the main action and compromises its argument through parody. The value that emerges is the humanist value of reason, but reason modulated into an attitude, an aesthetic mode of perception and ironic delight — reason as ‘discretion’, best represented in Lucres' behaviour.

Keywords: early Tudor plays; drama; melodrama; soteriology; sub-plot; episodic theory; interconnective theory; reason

Article.  8168 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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