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Satire Within Satire




The film Anonymous effectively demonstrates how Elizabethan theater satirized the public. In a play within the film the actor/clown on stage in the tall, feathered hat mocks of a member of the gallery in a tall, feathered hat.

The Gentleman Usher contains a similar sequence, when its masque-within-the-play openly satirizes Medice’s habit of picking his teeth with, and chewing on, rushes (Monkswell hillbilly indeed.) Fungus, a fool’s fool sings his song about rushes in the masque.

Fungus. Was whilome used for a pungent spear.
In that odd battle never fought but twice
 (As Homer sings) betwixt the frogs and mice.
Rushes make true-love knots; rushes make rings;
Your rush maugre the beard of Winter springs.
And when with gentle, amorous, lazy limbs,
Each lord with his fair lady sweetly swims
On these cool rushes, they may with these bables,
Cradles for children make, children for cradles.
And lest some Momus here might now cry ‘Push!’
Saying our pageant is not worth a rush.
Bundles of rushes, lo, we bring along,
To pick his teeth that bites them with his tongue.

 Strozza. See, see, that’s Lord Medice!

Vincentio.       Gods me.  My lord!
Has he pick’d you out, picking of your teeth?

Medice. What pick you out of that?

 Strozza.       Not such stale stuff
As you pick from your teeth.  (II,ii,234-259)

Momus was the god of satire. Chapman is spelling out for all the satire’s target. Vincentio and Strozza recognize Medice as that target, and thus the audience is signaled to recognize Medice as a satire of one of their own.   Moreover, that satire is fresh news, “Not such stale stuff” as the pickings from Medice’s teeth.

Fungus begins his song noting that rushes were used as spears in the war of Mice and Frogs. Chapman had translated Homer’s poem from the Greek.


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