Who is his foe?

Versifying, or at least the capacity to churn out ditties, was a common attribute among jesters. This play about Will Somers (d. c. 1559), jester at the courts of Henry VIII, Edward VI and Queen Mary, was written decades after he lived.  It includes verse-capping with the king; duly irreverent.  Was the playwright, Samuel Rowley, drawing on real stories about Somers?  In this exchange, he reminds the Emperor that death is greater than any emperor.

Emperor: An Emperour is greate, high is his seate, who is his foe?

Somers: The wormes that shall eate, his carkas for meate,

whether he will or no.

Emperor: A ruddy lip, with a cherry tip, is fit for a King.

Somers: I, so he may dip, about her hip, i’th tother thing.  (ll. 3058-62)

Source: Samuel Rowley (d. c. 1633), When You See Me You Know Me (1604), (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1952)


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