The Tudor Society

March 29 – Clergyman and playwright William Wager

On this day in Tudor history, 29th March 1591, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I,  playwright and Church of England clergyman William Wager was buried at the church where he was rector, St Benet Gracechurch.

I was drawn to him simply because of the titles of two of his plays, “Enough is as Good as a Feast” and “The Longer thou Livest the More Fool thou art”, which have been described as polemical Protestant interludes. I love those titles!

Here are a few facts about this Elizabethan playwright and churchman…

  • William Wager was the son of playwright, former Franciscan friar and rector, Lewis Wager, and his wife, Eleanor and it is thought that he was born in around 1537/1538.
  • Wager married Ellen Godson in 1562 at his father’s church, St James Garlickhythe in London, and they had four children together, including two sons, Edward and Thomas.
  • In 1567, Wager became rector of St Benet Gracechurch and he was licensed to preach throughout London. He was known for what was described as his “hot words” and attacks on Catholicism.
  • Wager’s biographer, Peter Happe describes “Enough is as Good as a Feast” as a play that “shows the tragic, but sinful, downfall of Worldly Man, an extortioner who dies refusing grace.” His other works include “The Longer thou Livest the More Fool thou art”, “The Cruel debtor”, and “Tis Good Sleeping in a Whole Skin”.
  • In 1573, Wager was appointed as governor of Elizabeth I’s new grammar school in Barnet, and in 1593 he appears in the records as hearing petitions from prisoners at 3 of London’s prisons.
  • By the way the whole title of “Enough is as Good as a Feast” is “A comedy or enterlude intituled, Inough is as good as a feast very fruitful, godly and ful of pleasant mirth”, and the whole title of “The Longer thou livest the more fool thou art” is “A very mery and pythie Commedie, called, The longer thou livest, the more foole thou art. A myrrour very necessary for youth, and specially for such as are like to come to dignities and promotion: as it may well appear in the matter folowynge”. I find Tudor titles so very funny!

Here is a playlist of videos on William Wager’s plays:

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Only 1 comment so far Go To Comment

  1. C

    Is it possible that William studied at the Royal Shrewsbury School Ca. 1552 given his reference to “hunt the fox” in “The Longer thou livest the more fool thou art?”

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March 29 – Clergyman and playwright William Wager