Staging the Henrician Court : "New moon" speech

This page last changed on Dec 07, 2009 by Eleanor Rycroft.

Merry Report's relation to The Gentlewoman that Jupiter cannot see her because he "is right busy/ With a piece of work that needs must be done", namely the "making of a new moon", has been argued to refer to the replacement of Catherine of Aragon with Anne Boleyn at the Henrician court. The old moon "which of the great wet hath been most matter" is therefore seen to directly invoke the Great Matter of Henry's divorce.

Below is the text of the speech:

By my faith, for his lordship is right busy
With a piece of work that needs must be done.
Even now he is making of a new moon:
He saith your old moons be so far tasted
That all the goodness of them is wasted;
Which of the great wet hath been the most matter,
For old moons be leaky, they can hold no water.
But for this new moon, I durst lay my gown,
Except a few drops at her going down,
Ye get no rain till her arising
Without it need, and then no man's devising
Could wish the fashion of rain to be so good:
Not gushing out like gutters of Noye's flood,
But small drops sprinkling softly to the ground:
Though they fell on a sponge, they would give no sound.
This new moon shall make a thing spring more in this while
Then an old moon shall while a man may go a mile.
By that time the god hath all made an end
Ye shall see how the weather will amend.
By Saint Anne, he goeth to work even boldly!
I think him wise enough, for he looketh oldly. (lines 793-813)

There is an interesting context to this speech in a couple of medical texts published in the mid-Tudor period. Thomas Ryanalde's Birth of Mankind usually gives woman a relatively important role in the process of reproduction. In particular, Raynalde argues that the 'pipes or conduits' inside a woman's body transform blood into seed and in particular Raynalbe compares the effect of small lead pipes and large ones in terms of the way smaller pipes infuse more lead into the water then large ones - for Rayna;be this is a good thing - it reflects the importance of women in comparision with those writers, for example Edmund Becke, who argued, again using the image of a lead pipe, that women added nothing to the process of conception - they are simply like pipes through which the child / water flows.

Posted by Tom Betteridge at Apr 06, 2010 22:46

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