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A Speech from 'Summer's Last Will and Testament'

This play is like a traditional morality play but based on the theme of the changing seasons. Nashe interweaves satire on different character types - the miser, the ne'er-do-well, the upstart, the drunk.


A speech by 'Christmas', a stingy nobleman, explaining why it is entirely right for him not to feast the poor at Christmas; or indeed, any other time. For one thing, it's not really kind to let poor people get used to eating, is it? Secondly, they might eat rather a lot. Then of course, the washing-up costs alone will ruin him. Fourthly, his house might collapse under their weight. Fifthly, when they start bowing their thanks their bodily vermin might drop off and ...

"To feed the poor twelve days and let them starve all the year after would but stretch out the guts wider than they should be, and so make famine a bigger den in their bellies than he had before. I should kill an ox, and have some such fellow as Milo come and eat it up at a mouthful!?!!?...The scraping of trenchers you think would put a man to no charges? It is not a hundred pounds a year would serve the scullions in dishclouts! My house stands upon vaults; it will fall if it be overloaden with a multitude...So, say I keep hospitality, and a whole fair of beggars bid me to dinner every day. What with making legs when they thank me at their going away, and settling their wallets handsomely on their backs - they would shake as many lice on the ground as were able to undermine my house and UNDO ME UTTERLY! It is their prayers would build it again if it were overthrown by this vermin, would it?..."

After rationalising meaness at more length, 'Christmas' begins to dwell on his own frightful financial constraints.

"Not a porter that brings a man a letter but will have his penny. I am afraid to keep past one or two servants lest (hungry knaves!) they should rob me. And those I keep I warrant I do not pamper up too lusty! I keep them under, with red herring and poor-john, all the year long! I have dammed up all my chimneys for fear - though I burn nothing but small coal - my house should be set on fire with the smoke."

The poor however do have their uses. They are excellent at getting rid of diseased sheep carcases.

"I will not deny but once in a dozen year, when there is a great rot of sheep and I know not what to do with them, I keep open house for all the beggars in some of my outyards. Marry, they must bring bread with them. I am no baker."

Fair point.

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