Over his life
There is a distinct vagueness about the details of Brome’s life outside
of the theatre. Although 1590 is the
date usually given for his birth, in truth we have no solid evidence to support
But for the whole Play, will you ha’ the truth on’t? (I am looking, lest the Poet heare me,
or his man,
The relationship with
The influence of
Brome did not always have the ‘seal of
No doubt a mouldy Tale,
As the Shrieve’s crusts, and nasty as his fish,
Scraps out of every Dish,
Throwne forth and rak’t into the common Tub,
May keepe up the Play Club:
Brooms sweepings doe as well
There, as his Masters meale
Brome was a successful and popular playwright. He began with The Love-sick Maid in
1629, writing The City Wit roughly around the same time. The closure of the theatres in 1642 led to
the downfall of Brome and he died in poverty in either 1652 or 1653.
The transcript that this edition
of The City Wit is based on is from the 1653 edition published by
Who the play was written for and performed by is a mystery; however, we can speculate about this. The City Wit has a large number of female roles for a Renaissance stage and one male part that requires a lot of singing. From this it is possible to deduce that the play may have been written for a boy company, or at least a company with a large number of boy players. This would make the prologue funnier because of the irony of a child playing the teacher; it would also help to explain the jibes made about Sarpego’s height throughout the play. 
There are other moments in the
play where it is possible to see a link between The City Wit and The
Alchemist although these are much more subtle points of comparison. In Act Two scene two Crasy is selling himself
as Doctor Pulse-feel to Josina and in his speech claims “
An excellent Paracelsian! And has done
Strange cures with mineral physic. He deals all
With spirits, he. He will not hear a word
Although not directly similar, the two quotations do encourage the suggestion that Brome drew on The Alchemist further than the more obvious references to the characters. There is another occasion such as this one in Act Two scene six of The Alchemist where Drugger discusses a widow who lodges near to him. Drugger states “Sir, there is lodged, hard by me/ A rich young widow”. This is comparable to the speech that Crasy makes to Pyannet about Tryman: “Love and Fortune have put upon me a right wealthy widow. She lies at a near neighbour’s house”. Again, although the similarity is slight, the comparison is there to be made, strengthened by the fact that, from the direct references, we know that Brome drew on The Alchemist. Later in this scene from The Alchemist there is another similarity when Drugger states “She’ll never marry/ Under a knight” and that the widow’s brother “is come up/ To learn to quarrel, and to live by his wits.” Toby’s discussion of Tryman in Act Two scene three seems to follow the issue of the knight as he claims “marry she will not but a gentleman” and the idea of a man coming to town to learn to live by his wits can be seen in The City Wit in Crasy’s decision to use wit and Toby’s advice to him to learn wit in Act One scene two.
The other play by
Nor is’t a tale
That female vice should be a virtue male,
Or masculine vice, a female virtue be:
You shall it see
Proved with increase,
I know to speak, and she to hold her peace.
The marriage of Epicoene, the ‘silent woman’ to Morose, a man who loves no noise, seems to be a perfect match; however, Epicoene changes into a very loud woman after marriage and in this and the power she exerts she is comparable to the character of Pyannet in The City Wit. For example, after her marriage Epicoene says to Morose:
Speak to him, fellow, speak to him. I’ll have none of this coacted, unnatural dumbness in my house, in a family where I govern.
Although it is ironic that this woman is demanding her husband speak and Pyannet demands he keep his silence, the central issue is the balance of power and the woman taking control as Pyannet is seen to do.
The revelation that the woman is
a man at the end of Epicoene is also seen in the end of The City Wit. The revelations are similar, and the speeches
that the two male characters,
While critics such as Andrews stress the influence of Jonson and perhaps other great writers such as Shakespeare, I would argue that there are greater, perhaps more obvious, links to the writer Robert Greene in The City Wit. Early in the play Crasy says:
Yes, here, about a groat's worth
Of paper it was once. Would I had now
The use of prostitutes by the prodigal
character is something that both writers use. In the case of
Perhaps it is too much to say that
The City Wit is a response to
It is interesting that one of the
other plays that is a source for The City Wit, Epicoene, also
City Wit has
a very specific setting:
If we take the date for the writing
of The City Wit as 1629, it was
written four years after the death of
The king observes a rule of great
decorum. The nobles do not enter his
apartment in confusion as heretofore, but each rank has its appointed place and
he has declared that he desires the rules and maxims of the late
In relation to the play this change in the nature of the court, which, although begun early, was drawn out and took place over years rather than weeks, throws the time of the play into some confusion as the tone of the court in Brome’s play does not reflect a sense of decorum but an atmosphere of bawdiness, concern with appearances and deceit. Through this difference in tone and the way in which, particularly in Acts Three and Four, Brome stages the court and the monarch, suggests that Brome intended to satirise the new way of working at court.
Satire of the court is most evident in Act Three, scene two when Pyannet coaches Sneakup in the ways of the court to enable him to con his way in to see ‘the Prince’ and thereby con ‘the Prince’ out of money. Towards the end of the scene Pyannet runs through a list of what Sneakup must do in each chamber he must pass through:
Now mark. I will instruct you: when you come at the Court gate, you may neither knock nor piss. Do you mark? You go through the Hall cover’d; through the great Chamber cover’d; through the Presence bare; through the Lobby cover’d; through the Privy Chamber bare; through the Privy Lobby cover’d; to the Prince bare.
Pyannet’s language in this detailed instruction shows the
vulgarity of the character and through this brings the dignity of the court
down to that level. If we take the play
as being set in contemporary
Act Three scene two is full of references to the court and the political context of the time of writing, the reference to madmen being one of them. The other that is particularly overt is a reference, again from Pyannet, about the Exchequer.
May not a man break wind?
Umh, yes: but (like the Exchequer payment) somewhat abated.
As with the rules of the court, the Exchequer is brought down
to the level of citizens through the language used about breaking wind.
Not only is the court of Charles I mocked through The
City Wit, the person of the king himself is portrayed onstage in a mocking
Again this is found in Act Three scene two as
Pyannet pretends to be ‘the Prince’. Considering
that the play is contemporary there is only one prince this could be –
The role of women in the play is
also at the forefront
and through this it is possible to suggest that Brome may
be alluding to
The City Wit is notable for the number of female characters that it has. Gender is a theme of the play that dominates from beginning to end; indeed it is apparent in the subtitle of the play ‘The woman wears the breeches’. The subtitle is a good indication of how gender is addressed in the play, having its focus on how women are expected to behave, as well as issues of femininity and masculinity. This is addressed largely through the female characters and Tryman and is most obviously apparent in the character of Pyannet. Pyannet is Sneakup’s wife and the mother-in-law of the hero Crasy. She is first presented on the stage through other characters' descriptions of her and her behaviour. Sarpego the pedant is most important in setting up the character, as he tells what Pyannet has done at the dinner designed to help Crasy with his creditors:
Sarpego is fond of using language in a hyperbolic manner and
here it is used to create an image of Pyannet that is wholly negative, most
plainly in the use of ‘creature’ and ‘she-thing’ to describe her. Through these words Pyannet is de-feminised
and turned into a form of monster, presenting gender in a negative manner,
most especially because this is the first woman to be talked about on the
stage. It is unfortunate for women
that Pyannet lives up to her description when she does enter.
Pyannet’s accusations and condemnation of Crasy
in Act One scene one are said with strength and authority; however, Brome
turns this into a negative for the character in part because she has already
been portrayed in a negative manner relating to speech and also because of
the other characters responses to her. Crasy
fails to acknowledge her until his masculinity is challenged, and she overtly
takes the role of the man in this situation away from her husband who is also
My husband is a man of few words, and has committed his tongue to me: and I hope I shall use it to his worship.
Pyannet’s negative presentation is confirmed through this as, rather than simply acting as her husband's mouthpiece, she responds in his place to Crasy’s approaches to him and she directly forbids her husband to speak (“You must talk, must you? And your wife in presence must you?”  ). Although funny, these moments present a confusion of gender roles as the de-feminised woman performs the male role. This presentation of Pyannet continues throughout the play, and is particularly apparent as she plays the Prince and attempts to cheat Crasy. 
The presentation of gender that is shown through Pyannet
is linked to a broader theme of gender that the play puts forward that is
linked to expectations of women. There
is not a single example of a ‘good’ woman in the play, except possibly Tryman
who in fact turns out to be male. The
very fact of his masculinity is derogatory to femininity as the ‘goodness’
is shown to be separate from the women anyway.
The ‘real’ women of the play are shown either to be serving women,
women pretending to be men, or whores (this is true of Tryman also who, before
her revelation, is presented as a whore).
Josina, Crasy’s wife, is presented as a whore from the moment he leaves
as she pursues
Money is a focal theme of the
play. As Brome brings prostitutes to
the fore so he links sex to money, and this link is something that is found
throughout the play. Money is the background
to The City Wit. Historically this is true and in terms of plot
it is also the case; it is intricately linked to the issues that Brome addresses:
sex, appearances, status and image. The idea that money can buy everything,
including non-material goods, runs through the play. This is evident through the simple fact that
Brome deals with characters who are merchants.
The buying of clothes to improve Sarpego’s appearance is also evidence
of this as
Money permeates the lives of the characters in The City Wit. Brome uses language to present it as a life force as important as food. This is evident in Act One scene one as Crasy describes his unfortunate situation:
They may sit merry with their cheer, while I feed on this hard meat…Am I drawn dry? Not so much as the lees left?
Through this use of language related to consumption Brome presents money as fundamental to life itself. The importance of money is found in the tragic tone of the scene and through the suggestion that Crasy is embroiled in a very serious downfall. The theme of the power of money is also drawn attention to as Crasy’s speech later in the scene about the bankrupt ditch and the bridge of baseness highlights how money has power to encourage corruption:
I must take nimble hold upon occasion,
Or lie forever in the bankrupt ditch,
Where no man lends a hand to draw one out.
I will leap over it, or fall bravely in’t,
I scorn thee, though thou lov’st a tradesman dearly
And mak’st a chandler Lord of thousands yearly.
In this speech Brome establishes a conflict fundamental to the play, between honesty in the form of Crasy and deceit in the form of money. This speech highlights how money makes and breaks friendships and the power that money has over human compassion as Crasy realises that no-one will help him in this desperation. This realisation is found to be true as none of his former friends pays him the money that they owe in Act One scene two. The conflict is established as Crasy makes a conscious decision not to fall to despair and baseness and the earnings that dealing without morals can bring. This conflict continues throughout the play to its conclusion in Act Five with the triumph of honesty over money.
The power of money to buy everything can be seen in most of the characters in the play. This is true of tight-fisted, money-loving Linsy-Wolsey and Pyannet who buys her son’s way into court and out of marriage, and also in Rufflit who links money to sex as he claims that sex can pay his debts. 
Throughout the play characters justify their actions related to keeping their money rather than aiding their friend, Crasy. Rufflit is particularly vocal in this:
All things rob one another: churches poule the people, princes pill the church; minions draw from princes, mistresses suck minions, and the pox undoes mistresses; physicians plagues their patients; orators their clients; courtiers their suitors, and the Devil all. The water robs the earth, earth chokes the water: fire burns air, air still consumes the fires.
This speech places the gaining of money through cheating people in a natural and correct order. The use of nature and the very ordered manner of the speech gives what Rufflit says a tone of legitimacy and a sense that this has been the case forever. However, while giving this use of money a sense of legitimacy, Brome undermines it by exposing the corruption of it at the same time. By opposing this speech with the character of the honest Crasy, Brome shows the audience the wrongness of this approach. Brome exposes the corrupt heart of society in The City Wit, at the centre of which is money. However, Brome also shows that there are other approaches, as honesty, through the use of wit, wins.
My intention with this edition of The City Wit has been to create a version of the text that is accessible for a modern readership at any level of study and knowledge, but to also retain the authenticity of a seventeenth century text. I believe that it is important, and that there is space in the market, for various editions that fulfil different purposes or editorial functions. In this edition I have tried to achieve a balance between modernity and the original text. I have not changed spellings of names even though a different spelling might perhaps emphasize the meaning; for example, I have left the spelling of ‘Crasy’ as ‘Crasy’ rather than altering it to ‘Crazy’. I have kept the spellings of names that are found in the transcripts ‘Dramatis Personae’. Spellings generally have been modernised to improve understanding and where this alteration has not changed the understanding or interpretation of the text that I believe Brome intended. For example, in Sarpego’s speech to Crasy in Act I scene II the word ‘lanthorne’ has only had the ‘e’ removed to spell ‘lanthorn’ rather than change the entire the word to ‘lantern’.  As I say in the note for this passage, Sarpego is referring to Crasy’s genitalia in an offensive and humorous manner, and changing the spelling for the sake of correctness and modernity would diminish Brome’s writing in this instance. This is also the case for the spelling of ‘Cornu copia’ in the same passage. The spelling has not been modernised where meaning would potentially be lost. There are instances throughout the text when it has been necessary for me to change the spelling of words because it impacts on meaning and therefore understanding. This has been, almost exclusively, with the word ‘I’. There are times throughout the text where I have changed this to ‘aye’ for the purposes of correctness and clarity. The use of capitals has also been modernised and made consistent throughout the text.
Throughout the transcript of the text there are hyphens present both in and at the end of speeches. These I have taken as indicating pauses, speakers drifting off mid-sentence, or interruptions. I have changed the three hyphens ‘---‘ for three dots instead ‘…’. The meaning is not changed but perhaps, and hopefully, enhanced.
Often Brome has
spelt words ending in ‘
Throughout the process of editing this play I have been constantly aware of the nature of performing the text and how my edition may influence that. As a result of this I have been restrained in the addition of stage directions. Brome has already included many stage directions in The City Wit that are useful and important to the play.  Directors will, of course, interpret and alter the text as they see fit and the addition of stage directions has been mainly for the aid of readers in visualising the action. I have clarified who is on and off stage, for example, adding people to ‘enter’ stage directions that have been missed off in the transcript but later speak,  and correcting stage directions when a character leaves but speaks immediately after. For example, in the transcripts Act I scene I a stage direction reads ‘Exit Jos.’ And then she speaks. It seems to make greater sense that the direction should read ‘Exit Jeremy’ and I have amended it to do so.  I have added stage directions in some instances to indicate who a character is addressing, for example during Pyannet’s showdown with Crasy in Act I scene I.  I felt that these additions did not impair the potential for interpretation of the text but added to the ability to visualise what is a potentially humorous scene and one that establishes some of the themes and conflicts that Brome addresses and uses throughout the play.
The play is written extensively in prose, which is expected in a play that focuses on low characters. There are times, however, when Brome uses verse, most notably during the first and fourth acts. I have left this as it is found in the transcript. Although at times it could be said that the verse is ‘bad’ it is clearly meant to be in verse as Brome uses rhyming couplets and most often an iambic pentameter. It seems that Brome uses verse at times when the tone of the play changes from one of comedy to tragedy, of course made comic by the characters melodramatics.  It did not seems necessary or appropriate therefore to change the verse to prose or vice versa.
I have attempted to modernise punctuation and grammar throughout the text. This has mostly involved the removal of unnecessary commas, colons, or semi-colons, and the addition where these punctuation marks have been missing. I have also removed brackets where they have not been totally necessary, partly because in performance brackets cannot be seen.
There have been few occasions when it has been necessary for me to make a choice between which word was appropriate for the sentence because of the potential that a mis-spelt word has created a new meaning. The only place in which I have completely altered the line in the transcript is Act I scene II when Toby says to Crasy: “Desire little; cover little; no not your own”. I could not make this sentence make sense with the spelling of no as either ‘no’ or ‘know’. I therefore changed the sentence to read “Desire little; covet little; no, not your own”,  based on a religious understanding of adultery that makes it possible for a person to desire what they already have. This meaning fits the intention of Toby’s speech and therefore the change does not create any major discrepancy in the text.
I have added line numbers to the text although I have been unable to begin counting at the beginning of each scene as I had hoped, hence the rather large line numbers.
I have also attempted to provide translations for all the Latin and Greek used in the play, however, there are some words that I have been unable to translate.
http://www.uoregon.edu/~rbear/greene1.html October 2003.
 ibid, p.2
 Steggle, chapter one.
 Brome, The City Wit, Prologue, lines 41-42.
 ibid, pp.51, 77-78
Date and Stage and Textual History, and
 ibid. p.59
 Steggle, chapter one.
 Steggle, chapter 8, p.349
 See, for example, Prologue line 48; Act 4 scene 1 lines 2590 and 2598; Epilogue line 4551.
 Brome, CW, Act 3 scene 1, line 1943
 ibid, Act 3 scene 3, line 2224
 ibid, Act 2 scene 2, lines 1061-1062
 Brome, CW, Act 4 scene 1, lines 2752-2753
 ibid, Act 2 scene 6, lines 60-61
 Brome, CW, Act 2 scene 3, lines 1374-1375
 ibid, Act 1 scene 2, line 651
 ibid, Act 3 scene 5, lines 48-50
 Brome, CW, Act 1, scene 1, lines 123-124
 Brome, CW, Act 1, scene 2, lines 650
 ibid, Act 3 scene 1, lines 1893-1894; Act 4 scene 4, lines 3577-3579
 See Act One scene one, lines 548-553 for example.
 Coward, p.169
 ibid, p.228
 Steggle, chapter one.
 Brome, CW, Act 3 scene 2, lines 2139-2142
 ibid, Act 3 scene 2, line 2165
 ibid, Act 3 scene 2, line 2212
 Brome, CW, Act 3 scene 2, lines 2147-2150
 Coward, The Stuart Age, p.164, 166
 Coward, p.169
 ibid, p.160
 ibid, p.163
 Brome, CW, Act 3 scene 2, lines 2118-2213
 Especially Prologue, line 48 and Act 4 scene 1, lines 2588 and 2596
 Brome, CW, Act 3 scene 4, lines 2349-2356
 ibid, Act 4 scene 1, line 2596
 See Themes section of Introduction.
 Coward, p.177
 ibid, p.177
 Coward, p.177
 Brome, CW, Act 1 scene 1, lines 284-290
 Brome, CW, Act 1 scene 1, lines 383-384
 ibid, Act 1 scene 1, lines 401-402
 ibid, Act 4 scene 1, lines 3765-2767
 Brome, CW, Act 5, line 4118
 ibid, Act 5, lines 4113-4114
 ibid, Act 5, lines 4121-4123
 ibid, Act 3 scene 3, lines 2230-2231
 Brome, CW, Act 5, lines 4478-4483
 ibid, Act 4 scene 1, lines 2588-2591
 ibid, Act 3 scene 4, lines 2429-2431
 ibid, Act 1 scene 1, lines 106-119
Brome, CW, Act 1 scene 1, lines 205-217
 Brome, CW, Act 4 scene 1, lines 2988-2989
 ibid, Act 4 scene 1, lines 2973-2977
 Brome, CW, Act 1 scene 2, lines 629-631
 Act I scenes I – holding the bags etc.
 For example Toby has been added to the stage direction at Act 1 scene 1, line 293
 Brome, CW, Act 1 scene 1, line 531
 ibid, Act1 scene 1, lines 302-379
 Brome, CW, Act 4 scene 1, lines 2626-2663
 ibid, Act 1 scene 2, line 640