Staging the Henrician Court : More on Mery Reporte

This page last changed on Sep 25, 2009 by Sarah Carpenter.

My browser won't let me add comments to ongoing discussions, so I'll post this as a new topic. 

To add to the Mery Reporte discussion: I had always thought that Mery Reporte's costume fell rather between the options suggested by Peter and by Tom.  Comments are certainly made about his clothing that suggest something more fantastic and less sober than what the actor wore.  Yet these comments don't seem quite to imply the recognisable and familiar 'motley'?  The stress is on their 'lightness' or frivolity: Jupiter questions his status as a gentleman for this reason:
A gentylman? Thy selfe bryngeth wytnes naye, / Bothe in thy lyght behavour and araye! (109)

and 'thyne appearance ys of to mych lyghtnes.' (114)

The signal seems to be to something extravagantly playful, rather than to the officially licensed fool?  Mery Reporte himself defends his clothes by saying 'What skyls our apparell to be fryse or fethers'.  That again doesn't quite seem to imply an official 'fool's coat'.  I suppose that his contrast of frieze and feathers probably suggests he is at neither end of the scale, otherwise I'd be inclined to compare him to the (later) figure of Vanitie in Liberality and Prodigality:

Enter Vanitie solus, all in feathers

In words to make description of my name,

My nature and conditions, were but vaine,

Sith this attire so plainely shewes the same...

For lo, thus round about in feathers dight,

Doth plainely figure mine inconstancie,

As feathers, light of minde. (1.2)

As Peter and Tom say, the clothing of Mery Reporte does seem to cast important light on how we understand the play as a whole.  Is he an insider or an outsider, the (court) licensed fool or the (non-courtly) social commentator?  I wonder whether conspicuously 'light array' doesn't steer between these possiblities.  The line that hit me even more in performance than in reading was 'what hurte to reporte a sad mater merely?' If his costume signals 'merriness' rather than social allegiance, perhaps it focuses us more sharply on the supposed neutrality of Mery Reporte's position.  We're being alerted to the 'sad matter', but offered freedom to enjoy the supposedly non-partisan merriness.  While the actor played this with engaging liveliness, his costume did seem rather to ally him with the lower social scale suitors?

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