Staging the Henrician Court : Merry Report

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

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Merry Report dominates the stage in 'The Play of the Weather' and has attracted much of the critical attention directed towards the play. It has been argued by critics that the part may have been originally performed by Heywood himself given the playwright's 'merry' reputation.  Merry Report is the first nominated 'Vice' on a title page of a printed playtext.  

The information Merry Report gives the audience concerning his background is scant, simply that he is "a poor gentleman, dwelleth hereby": evidence which is immediately dismissed by Jupiter on account of the lightness of his array and behaviour.  One of Merry Report's primary dramaturgical functions seems not only to act as an interlocutor between the petitioners and the God, but also between the petitioners and the audience, displaying an equal irreverence towards both.  It is only when the Boy enters the stage that Merry Report eschews his role of clown, jester or fool, asking, in apparent concern, "Alas, poor boy, who sent thee hither?"  His classification as a 'Vice' therefore seems complex and open to question.

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