A new edition of “The Play of Wit and Science” by Diane Jakacki, third year Brittain Fellow, has just been published in The Broadview Anthology of Medieval Drama. “Wit and Science,” is an Henrician interlude written by John Redford (1500-1547), composer and choirmaster at St. Paul’s choir school. The interlude is rarely published in modern critical editions. The original text exists within one manuscript at the British Library; the first five leaves of the MS are missing, including the beginning of “Wit and Science,” making it difficult to faithfully reproduce or date the play.
“Wit and Science” is important to scholars of early modern drama as an example of the interlude form, meant to be performed as part of more complex celebrations at court and in great houses. A reference at the end to “our most noble King and Queen in especial” suggests that the writing of the play might have coincided with a celebration of one of Henry VIII’s last two marriages and that it may have been performed for the King and his courtiers. The play includes stage directions for dancing and singing, including lyrics to three songs that almost certainly would have been accompanied by music composed by Redford.
Jakacki specializes in Digital Humanities approaches to early modern English theatre and performance and book history. She is currently at work on a digital edition of Shakespeare and Fletcher’s “King Henry the Eighth or All is True” for the Internet Shakespeare Editions.