‘ENTER AMBIGUITY IN DISTINCTIONS CLOAKE’

The Sophister. A Comedy …

London: Printed by J. O. for Humphrey Mosley, and are to be sold at his Shop … 1639.

4to., pp. [70], wanting the initial blank (A1); outer woodcut border of title-page cropped (even though it is folded over at lower and outer edges), a few small marginal repairs, but a good copy in modern half calf.

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First edition, attributed to Richard Zouche, Regius professor of civil law at Oxford from 1620 until his death. Only two literary works are credited to Zouche (1590-1651), a poem The Dove: or Passages of Cosmography (1613), and the present play, with its resoundingly legal vocabulary.

Our Civill Law doth seeme a royall thing,
It hath more Titles than the Spanish King:
But yet the Common Law quite puts it downe.
In getting, like the Pope, so many a Crowne.

The Prologue, ‘spoken by Mercury to the Academicall Auditors’, suggests a university or inns of court audience, and it is likely it was first performed c.1614-1620. The play itself has a distinctly academic bent – the plot centring on the sophister Fallacy, his father Discourse, and a sequence of rhetorical and philosophical figures: Proposition, Description, Invention, Division, Ambiguity.

A manuscript version under the title ‘Fallacy, or the Troubles of Great Hermenia’ (MS Harleian 6869.2) probably represents a stage of the play before censorship, and names the author as ‘R. Z.’

STC 26133; Greg 556; Bentley, V, 1276-1280.

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