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The Old Law, or A New Way to Please You. La Loi des anciens, ou Comment vous plaire à nouveau, De Thomas Middleton, William Rowley, Philip Massinger. Texte établi, traduit, présenté et annoté par Antoine Ertlé

Act II

Philip Massinger, Thomas Middleton et William Rowley
Traduction(s) :
Acte 2

Texte intégral

Act II, scene i

Enter [the] Duke, three Courtiers, and [the] executioner.

DUKE
Executioner!

EXECUTIONER
My lord.

DUKE
How did old Diocles take his death?

EXECUTIONER
As weeping brides receive their joys at night, my lord,
With trembling yet with patience.

DUKE
Why,
twas well.

FIRST COURTIER
Nay, I knew my father would do well, my lord,
Whene
er he came to die. Id that opinion of him
Which made me the more willing to part from him.
He was not fit to live in the world,
Indeed, any time these ten years, my lord,
But I would not say so much.

DUKE
No! You did not well in it,
For he that
s all spent is ripe for death at all hours, And does but trifle time out.

FIRST COURTIER
Troth, my lord,
I would I had known your mind nine years ago.

DUKE
Our law is fourscore years because we judge
Dotage complete then, as unfruitfulness
In women at threescore. Marry, if the son
Can within compass bring good solid proofs
Of his own father
s weakness and unfitness
To live or sway the living, though he want five
Or ten years of his number, that
s not it;
His defect makes him fourscore and
tis fit
He dies when he deserves, for every act
Is in effect then, when the cause is ripe.

SECOND COURTIER
An admirable prince! How rarely he talks!
Oh, that we
d known this, lads! What a time did we endure
In two-penny commons, and in boots twice vamp
d!

  • 1 two pairs] Q (two paire).

FIRST COURTIER
Now we have two pairs
1 a week, and yet not thankful;
Twill be a fine world for them, sirs, that come after us.

SECOND COURTIER
Ay, and they knew it.

FIRST COURTIER
Peace! Let them never know
t.

THIRD COURTIER
A pox, there be young heirs will soon smell
t out.

SECOND COURTIER
Twill come to em by instinct, man. May your Grace
Never be old, you stand so well for youth.

DUKE
Why now, methinks our court looks like a spring;
Sweet, fresh, and fashionable, now the old weeds are gone.

FIRST COURTIER
Tis as a court should be:
Gloss and good clothes, my lord, no matter for merit;
And herein your law proves a provident act, my lord,
When men pass not the palsy of their tongues,
Nor colour in their cheeks.

DUKE
But women by that law should live long,
For they are ne
er past it.

FIRST COURTIER
It will have heats though, when they see the painting
Go an inch deep in the wrinkle, and take up
A box more than their gossips. But for men, my lord,
That should be the sole bravery of a palace,
To walk with hollow eyes and long white beards,
As if a prince dwelt in a land of goats;
With clothes as if they sat upon their backs on purpose
To arraign a fashion, and condemn it to exile;
Their pockets in their sleeves, as if they laid
Their ear to avarice and heard the devil whisper!
Now ours lie downward, here, close to the flank,
Right spending pockets, as a son
s should be
That lives in the fashion, where our diseased fathers,
Would with the sciatica and aches,
Brought up your pan
d hose first, which ladies laughed at,
Giving no reverence to the place, lie ruined.
They love a doublet that
s three hours a-buttoning,
And fits so close makes a man groan again
And his soul mutter half a day. Yet these are those
That carry sway and worth; pricked up in clothes,
Why should we fear our rising?

DUKE
You but wrong
Our kindness and your own deserts to doubt on it.
Has not our law made you rich before your time?
Our countenance then can make you honourable.

FIRST COURTIER
We
ll spare for no cost, sir, to appear worthy.

DUKE
Why, you
re in the noble way then, for the most
Are but appearers; worth itself, it is lost
And bravery stands for it.

Enter CREON, ANTIGONA, and SIMONIDES.

FIRST COURTIER
Look, look who comes here!
I smell death and another courtier.
Simonides!

SECOND COURTIER
Sim!

SIMONIDES
Push! I
m not for you yet;
Your company
s too costly; after the old mans
Dispatched, I shall have time to talk with you.
I shall come into the fashion, ye shall see too,
After a day or two. In the meantime,
I am not for your company.

DUKE
Old Creon, you have been expected long;
Sure you
re above fourscore.

  • 2 he would not offer it] Shaw ; he would no offer it Q.

SIMONIDES
Upon my life
Not four-and-twenty hours, my lord; I searched
The church-book yesterday. Does your Grace think
I
d let my father wrong the law, my lord?
Twere pity o my life then! No, your act
Shall not receive a minute
s wrong by him
While I live, sir; and he
s so just himself too,
I know he would not offer it
2. Here he stands.

CREON
Tis just I die, indeed, my lord; for I confess
I
m troublesome to life now, and the state
Can hope for nothing worthy from me now,
Either in force or counsel. I
ve of late
Employed myself quite from the world, and he that once
Begins to serve his maker faithfully
Can never serve a worldly prince well after;
Tis clean another way.

ANTIGONA
Oh, give not confidence
To all he speaks, my lord, in his own injury!
His preparation only for the next world
Makes him talk wildly to his wrong of this.
He is not lost in judgment -

SIMONIDES [Aside]
She spoils all again.

ANTIGONA
Deserving any way for state employment.

SIMONIDES
Mother!

ANTIGONA
His very household laws proscribed at home by him
Are able to conform seven Christian kingdoms,
They are so wise and virtuous.

SIMONIDES
Mother, I say!

ANTIGONA
I know your laws extend not to desert, sir,
But to unnecessary years, and, my lord,
His are not such. Though they show white, they
re worthy,
Judicious, able, and religious.

SIMONIDES
I
ll help you to a courtier of nineteen, mother.

ANTIGONA
Away, unnatural!

SIMONIDES
Then I am no fool, I
m sure,
For to be natural at such a time
Were a fool
s part indeed.

ANTIGONA
Your Grace
s pity, sir,
And
tis but fit and just.

CREON
The law, my lord,
And that
s the justest way.

SIMONIDES [Aside]
Well said, father, i
faith;
Thou wert ever juster than my mother still.

DUKE
Come hither, sir.

SIMONIDES
My lord.

DUKE
What are those orders?

ANTIGONA
Worth observation, sir,
So please you hear them read.

SIMONIDES
The woman speaks she knows not what, my lord.
He make a law, poor man! He bought a table, indeed,
Only to learn to die by
t. Theres the business now
Wherein there are some precepts for a son too,
How he should learn to live, but I ne
er looked upont;
For when he
s dead I shall live well enough
And keep a better table than that, I trow.

DUKE
And is that all, sir?

SIMONIDES
All, I vow, my lord,
Save a few running admonitions
Upon cheese-trenchers, as
Take heed of whoring, shun it,
Tis like a cheese too strong of the runnet,
And such calves
maws of wit and admonition
Good to catch mice with, but not sons and heirs:
They
re not so easily caught.

DUKE
Agent for death.

EXECUTIONER
Your will, my lord?

DUKE
Take hence that pile of years
Before [he] surfeit with unprofitable age,
And with the rest, from the high promontory,
Cast him into the sea.

CREON
Tis noble justice!

ANTIGONA
Tis cursed tyranny!

SIMONIDES
Peace! Take heed, mother, you have but a short time to be cast down yourself, and let a young courtier do it, and you be wise in the meantime.

ANTIGONA
Hence, slave!

SIMONIDES
Well, seven-and-fifty,
You
ve but three years to scold, then comes your payment.

FIRST COURTIER
Simonides.

  • 3 your talk] Q (you talk).

SIMONIDES
Push, I
m not brave enough to hold your talk3 yet;
Give a man time, I have a suit a-making.

Recorders.

SECOND COURTIER
We love thy form first; brave clothes will come, man.

SIMONIDES
I
ll make em come else, with a mischief to em
As other gallants do that have less left
em.

Recorders.

DUKE
Hark, whence those sounds? What
s that?

Recorders. Enter CLEANTHES and HIPPOLITA, with a hearse.

FIRST COURTIER
Some funeral
It seems, my lord, and young Cleanthes follows.

DUKE
Cleanthes!

SECOND COURTIER
Tis, my lord, and in the place
Of a chief mourner too, but strangely habited.

DUKE
Yet suitable to his behaviour, mark it;
He comes all the way smiling, do you observe it?
I never saw a corpse so joyfully followed.
Light colours and light cheeks! Who should this be?
Tis a thing worth resolving.

SIMONIDES
One belike that doth participate
In this our present joy.

DUKE
Cleanthes!

CLEANTHES
Oh, my lord!

DUKE
He laughed outright now!
Was ever such a contrariety seen
In natural courses yet, nay, professed openly?

FIRST COURTIER
I ha[ve] known a widow laugh closely, my lord,
Under her handkercher, when t
other part
Of her old face has wept like rain in sunshine;
But all the face to laugh apparently
Was never seen yet.

SIMONIDES
Yes, mine did once.

CLEANTHES
Tis of a heavy time, the joyfullest day
That ever son was born to.

DUKE
How can that be?

CLEANTHES
I joy to make it plain: my father
s dead.

DUKE
Dead!

SECOND COURTIER
Old Leonides?

CLEANTHES
In his last month dead;
He beguiled cruel law the sweetliest
That ever age was blest to.
It grieves me that a tear should fall upon
t,
Being a thing so joyful; but his memory
Will work it out, I see. When his poor heart broke,
I did not so much but leaped for joy
So mountingly, I touched the stars, methought.
I would not hear of blacks, I was so light,
But chose a colour orient, like my mind;
For blacks are often such dissembling mourners
There is no credit given to it. It has lost
All reputation by false sons and widows.
Now I would have men know what I resemble,
A truth, indeed;
tis joy clad like a joy,
Which is more honest than a cunning grief
That
s only faced with sables for a show,
But gaudy-hearted. When I saw death come
So ready to deceive you, sir, forgive me,
I could not choose but be entirely merry.
And yet, to see now, of a sudden
Naming but death, I show myself a mortal
That
s never constant to one passion long;
I wonder whence that tear came when I smiled
In the production on
t. Sorrows a thief
That can, when joy looks on, steal forth a grief.
But gracious leave, my lord, when I have performed,
My last poor duty to my father
s bones,
I shall return your servant.

DUKE
Well, perform it.
The law is satisfied, they can but die.
And, by his death, Cleanthes, you gain well
A rich and fair revenue.

Flourish.

SIMONIDES
I would I had even another father, condition he did the like.

  • 4 the Duke in sight] Shaw ; the dim sight Q.

CLEANTHES [Aside]
I have passed it bravely now! How blest was I
To have the Duke in sight
4! Now tis confirmed
Fast fear of doubts confirmed. On, on, I say,
He that brought me to man, I bring to clay.

SIMONIDES
I
m wrapped now in a contemplation
Even at the very sight of yonder hearse!
I do but think what a fine thing
tis now
To live and follow some seven uncles thus,
As many cousin-germans, and such people
That will leave legacies. A pox! I
d see em hanged else eer Id follow one of them and they could find the way. Now Ive enough to begin to be horrible covetous.

Enter Butler, Tailor, Bailiff, Cook, Coachman, and Footman.

BUTLER
We come to know your worship
s pleasure, sir;
Having long serv
d your father, how your good will
Stands towards our entertainment.

SIMONIDES
Not a jot, i
faith:
My father wore cheap garments, he might do it; I shall have all my clothes come home tomorrow. They will eat up all you, and there were more of you, sirs, to keep you six at livery, and still munching!

TAILOR
Why, I
m a tailor, youve most need of me, sir.

SIMONIDES
Thou madest my father
s clothes, that I confess,
But what son and heir will have his father
s tailor
Unless he have a mind to be well laughed at?
Thou hast been so used to wide long-side things, that when I come to truss, I shall have the waist of my doublet lie upon my buttocks. A sweet sight!

BUTLER
I, a butler?

SIMONIDES
There
s least need of thee, fellow, I shall neer drink at home, I shall be so drunk abroad.

BUTLER
But a cup of small beer will do well next morning, sir.

SIMONIDES
I grant you, but what need I keep so big a knave for a cup of small beer?

COOK
Butler, you have your answer. Marry, sir, a cook I know your mastership cannot be without.

SIMONIDES
The more ass art thou to think so, for what should I do with a mountebank, no drink in my house? The banishing the butler might have been a warning for thee, unless thou meanest to choke me.

COOK
In the meantime you have choked me, methinks.

BAILIFF
These are superfluous vanities, indeed, and so accounted of in these days, sir; but then, your bailiff to receive your rents?

SIMONIDES
I prithee, hold thy tongue, fellow, I shall take a course to spend
em faster than thou canst reckon em. Tis not the rents must serve my turn, unless I mean to be laughed at; if a man should be seen out of slash-me, let him neer look to be a right gallant. But, sirrah, with whom is your business?

COACHMAN
Your good mastership.

SIMONIDES
You have stood silent all this while, like men that know their strengths. In these days none of you can want employment; you can win me wagers, footman, in running races.

FOOTMAN
I dare boast it, sir.

SIMONIDES
And when my bets are all come in and store,
Then, coachman, you can hurry me to my whore.

COACHMAN
I
ll firk em into foam else.

SIMONIDES
[He] speaks brave matter!
And I
ll firk some too, ort shall cost hot water.

COOK
Why, here
s an age to make a cook a ruffian and scald the devil! Indeed, do strange mad things, make mutton-pasties of dogs flesh, bake snakes for lamprey pies, and cats for conies!

BUTLER
Come, will you be ruled by a butler
s advice once? For we must make up our fortunes somewhere now, as the case stands. Lets even, therefore, go seek out widows of nine-and-fifty and we can; thats within a year of their deaths and so we shall be sure to be quickly rid of em, for a years enough of conscience to be troubled with a wife for any man living.

COOK
Oracle butler! Oracle butler! He puts down all the doctors o
the name!

Exeunt.

Act II, scene ii

Enter EUGENIA and PARTHENIA.

EUGENIA
Parthenia.

PARTHENIA
Mother.

EUGENIA [Aside]
I shall be troubled
This six months with an old clog! Would the law
Had been cut one year shorter!

PARTHENIA
Did you call, forsooth?

  • 5 waited for] Shaw ; wasted for Q.

EUGENIA
Yes, you must make some spoonmeat for your father,
And warm three nightcaps for him. Out upon
t!
The mere conceit turns a young woman
s stomach.
His slippers must be warmed in August too,
And his gown girt to him in the very dogdays
When every mastiff lolls out his tongue for heat.
Would not this vex a beauty of nineteen now?
Alas! I shall be tumbling in cold baths now,
Under each armpit a fine bean-flour bag
To screw out whiteness when I list;
And some seven of the properest men in the dukedom
Making a banquet ready in the next room for me,
Where he that gets the first kiss is envied
And stands upon his guard a fortnight after.
This is a life for nineteen! But
tis justice
For old men, whose great acts stand in their minds
And nothing in the bodies, do ne
er think
A woman young enough for their desire;
And we young wenches that have mother wits
And love to marry muck first, and man after,
Do never think old men are old enough
That we may soon be rid on
em. Theres our quittance!
I have waited for5 the happy hour this two year,
And if death be so unkind still to let him live,
All that time I am lost.

Enter courtiers.

FIRST COURTIER
Young lady!

SECOND COURTIER
Oh sweet precious bud of beauty!
Troth, she smells over all the house, methinks.

FIRST COURTER
The sweetbrier
s but a counterfeit to her!
It does exceed you only in the prickle,
But that it shall not long, if you
ll be ruled, lady.

EUGENIA
What means this sudden visitation, gentlemen?
So passing well performed too! Who
s your milliner?

FIRST COURTIER
Love and thy beauty, widow.

EUGENIA
Widow, sir?

FIRST COURTIER
Tis sure, and thats as good. In truth, were suitors,
We come a-wooing, wench; plain dealing
s best.

EUGENIA
A-wooing? What, before my husband
s dead!

SECOND COURTIER
Let
s lose no time. Six months will have an end, you know,
I know it by all the bonds that e
er I made yet.

EUGENIA
That
s a sure knowledge, but it holds not here, sir.

FIRST COURTIER
Do not we know the craft of you young tumblers? That [when] you wed an old man, you think upon another husband as you are marrying of him? We, knowing your thought, made bold to see you.

Enter SIMONIDES [and] coachman.

EUGENIA [Aside]
How wondrous right he speaks!
Twas my thought indeed.

SIMONIDES
By your leave, sweet widow, do you lack any gallants?

EUGENIA [Aside]
Widow again!
Tis a comfort to be called so.

FIRST COURTIER
Who
s this? Simonides?

SECOND COURTIER
Brave Sim, i
faith!

SIMONIDES
Coachman.

COACHMAN
Sir?

SIMONIDES
Have an especial care of my new mares.
They say, sweet widow, he that loves a horse well
Must needs love a widow well. When dies thy husband?
Is it not July next?

EUGENIA
Oh, you
re too hot, sir;
Pray cool yourself and take September with you!

SIMONIDES
September! Oh, I was but two bows wide.

FIRST COURTIER
Master Simonides!

SIMONIDES
I can entreat you, gallants; I
m in fashion too.

Enter LISANDER.

LISANDER
Ha! Whence this herd of folly? What are you?

SIMONIDES
Well-willers to your wife; pray tend your book, sir.
We have nothing to say to you; you may go die
For here be those in place that can supply.

LISANDER
What
s thy wild business here?

SIMONIDES
Old man, I
ll tell thee,
I come to beg the reversion of thy wife;
I think these gallants be of my mind too.
But thou art but a dead man;
Therefore, what should a man do talking with thee?
Come, widow, stand to your tackling.

LISANDER
Impious bloodhounds!

SIMONIDES
Let the ghost talk, ne
er mind him.

LISANDER
Shames of nature!

SIMONIDES
Alas, poor ghost! Consider what the man is.

LISANDER
Monsters unnatural! You that have been covetous
Of your own fathers
deaths, gape ye for mine now?
Cannot a poor old man that now can reckon
Even all the hours he has to live, live quiet
For such wild beasts as these, that neither hold
A certainty of good within themselves,
But scatter others
comforts that are ripened
For holy uses? Is hot youth so hasty
It will not give an old man leave to die
And leave a widow first, but will make one
The husband looking on? May your destructions
Come all in hasty figures to your souls,
Your wealth depart in haste to overtake
Your honesties, that died when you were infants!
May your male seed be hasty spendthrifts too,
Your daughters hasty sinners and diseas
d
Ere they be thought at years to welcome misery!
And may you never know what leisure is
But at repentance! I am too uncharitable,
Too foul! I must go cleanse myself with prayers.
These are the plagues of fondness to old men,
We
re punished home with what we dote upon.

Exit.

SIMONIDES
So, so! The ghost is vanished; now, your answer, lady.

EUGENIA
Excuse me, gentlemen,
twere as much impudence
In me to give you a kind answer yet,
As madness to produce a churlish one.
I could say now, come a month hence, sweet gentlemen,
Or two, or three, or when you will, indeed,
But I say no such thing. I set no time,
Nor is it mannerly to deny any.
I
ll carry an even hand to all the world.
Let other women make what haste they will;
What
s that to me? But I profess unfeignedly,
I
ll have my husband dead before I marry.
Ne
er look for other answer at my hands, gentlemen.

SIMONIDES
Would he were hanged, for my part looks for other!

EUGENIA
I
m at a word.

SIMONIDES
And I
m at a blow then;
I
ll lay you on the lips and leave you.

FIRST COURTIER
Well struck, Sim!

SIMONIDES
He that dares say he
ll mend it, Ill strike him.

  • 6 a botcher] Shaw ; a brother Q.

FIRST COURTIER
He would betray himself to be a botcher
6
That goes about to mend it.

EUGENIA
Gentlemen, you know my mind. I bar you not my house;
But if you choose out hours more seasonably,
You may have entertainment.

Enter PARTHENIA.

SIMONIDES
What will she do hereafter, when sh
is a widow
Keeps open house already?

Exeunt.

EUGENIA
How now, girl?

PARTHENIA
Those feather
d fools that hither took their flight
Have griev
d my father much.

  • 7 a wheezing matter] Shaw ; a wheening matter Q.

EUGENIA
Speak well of youth, wench,
While thou hast a day to live.
Tis youth must make thee,
And when youth fails, wise women will make it.
But always take age first to make thee rich;
That was my counsel ever, and then youth
Will make thee sport enough all thy life after.
Tis times policy, wench. What is it to bide
A little hardness for a pair of years or so?
A man whose only strength lies in his breath,
Weakness in all parts else, thy bedfellow
A cough of the lungs, or say a wheezing matter7;
Then shake off chains and dance all thy life after?

PARTHENIA
Everyone to their liking, but I say
An honest man
s worth all, be he young or gray.

Enter HIPPOLITA.

Yonders my cousin.

EUGENIA [Aside]
Art, I must use thee now.
Dissembling is the best help for a virtue
That ever woman had; it saves their credit often.

HIPPOLITA
How now, cousin!
What, weeping?

EUGENIA
Can you blame me when the time
Of my dear love and husband now draws on?
I study funeral tears against the day
I must be a sad widow.

  • 8 quitted] Q (quited).

HIPPOLITA
In troth, Eugenia, I have cause to weep too;
But when I visit, I come comfortably
And look to be so quitted
8. Yet more sobbing?

EUGENIA
Oh, the greatest part of your affliction
s past;
The worst of mine
s to come. I have one to die.
Your husband
s father is dead and fixed
In his eternal peace, past the sharp tyrannous blow.

HIPPOLITA
You must use patience, coz.

EUGENIA
Tell me of patience.

HIPPOLITA
You have example for
t in me and many.

EUGENIA
Yours was a father-in-law, but mine a husband!
Oh, for a woman that could love and live
With an old man; mine is a jewel, cousin,
So quietly he lies by one, so still.

HIPPOLITA [Aside]
Alas! I have a secret lodged within me
Which now will out in pity; I can
t hold!

EUGENIA
One that will not disturb me in my sleep
For a whole month together,
less it be
With those diseases age is subject to,
As aches, coughs, and pains, and these, heaven knows,
Against his will too. He
s the quietest man,
Especially in bed.

HIPPOLITA
Be comforted.

EUGENIA
How can I, lady?
None knows the terror of a husband
s loss
But they that fear to lose him.

HIPPOLITA [Aside]
Fain would I keep it in, but
twill not be;
She is my kinswoman and I
m pitiful.
I must impart a good, if I know it once,
To them that stand in need on
t. Im like one
Loves not to banquet with a joy alone,
My friends must partake too. Prithee, cease, cousin.
If your love be so boundless, which is rare
In a young woman in these days, I tell you,
To one so much past service as your husband,
There is a way to beguile law and help you.
My husband found it out first.

EUGENIA
Oh, sweet cousin!

HIPPOLITA
You may conceal him and give out his death
Within the time, order his funeral too.
We had it so for ours, I praise heaven for
t,
And he
s alive and safe!

EUGENIA
Oh, blessed coz,
How thou reviv
st me!

HIPPOLITA
We daily see
The good old man and feed him twice a day.
Methinks it is the sweetest joy to cherish him,
That ever life yet showed me.

EUGENIA
So should I think
A dainty thing to nurse an old man well.

HIPPOLITA
And then we have his prayers and daily blessing,
And we two live so lovingly upon
t,
His son and I, and so contentedly,
You cannot think unless you tasted on
t.

EUGENIA
No, I warrant you. Oh, loving cousin,
What a great sorrow hast thou eased me of!
A thousand thanks go with thee.

HIPPOLITA
I have a suit to you, I must not have you weep when I am gone.

Exit.

EUGENIA
No, if I do, ne
er trust me. Easy fool!
Thou hast put thyself into my power forever;
Take heed of angering of me. I conceal!
I feign a funeral! I keep my husband!
Las, I have been thinking any time these two years,
I have kept him too long already.
I
ll go count oer my suitors, thats my business,
And prick the man down. I ha
six months to do it,
But could dispatch him in one, were I put to it.

Exit.

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Notes

1 two pairs] Q (two paire).

2 he would not offer it] Shaw ; he would no offer it Q.

3 your talk] Q (you talk).

4 the Duke in sight] Shaw ; the dim sight Q.

5 waited for] Shaw ; wasted for Q.

6 a botcher] Shaw ; a brother Q.

7 a wheezing matter] Shaw ; a wheening matter Q.

8 quitted] Q (quited).

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Référence électronique

Philip Massinger, Thomas Middleton et William Rowley, « Act II », Études Épistémè [En ligne], 11 | 2007, mis en ligne le 01 avril 2007, consulté le 13 décembre 2017. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/episteme/937 ; DOI : 10.4000/episteme.937

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Auteurs

Philip Massinger

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Thomas Middleton

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William Rowley

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