Wager, William (DNB00)

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WAGER, WILLIAM (fl. 1566), writer of interludes, is known only by his works. These were: 1. 'A very mery and pythie Commedie, called, The longer thou livest, the more foole thou art. A myrrour very necessarie for youth, and specially for such as are like to come to dignitie and promotion: as it maye well appeare in the matter folowynge. Newly compiled by W. Wager. Imprinted at London, by William How for Richard Johnes: and are to be solde at his shop under the Lotterie House,' b.l. n.d. 4to. An account of this interesting interlude is given by Collier in his 'History of Dramatic Poetry' (ii. 248-253). The play is remarkable for the list of old songs quoted by the character Moros in the opening scene. 2.'The Cruell Debtter.' Thomas Colwell's license to print this interlude is entered in 1566 in the 'Stationers' Register' (Arber, i. 307). One leaf survives in Bagford's collection of title-pages and scraps now in the British Museum'(Harl. MS. 5919, leaf 18, back). Two more leaves are in W. B. Scott's black-letter fragments, separately bound, also in the British Museum (C. 40, e. 48). The fragments make it unlikely that the Shylock story was used in the play. 3. 'Tis good sleeping in a whole skin,' a manuscript, said to have been destroyed by Warburton's servant. It may have been the second title of No. 2.

'The History of the Tryall of Chevalry' (1605), reprinted in Mr. A. H. Bullen's' Old English Plays' (iii. 263), has been doubtfully attributed to Wager. More probable is the attribution to him of 'Tom Tyler and his Wife. An excellent old Play, as it was printed and acted about a hundred Years ago. Together with an exact Catalogue of all the playes that were ever yet printed. The Second impression. London, 1661,' 4to. This play is full of snatches of songs, like No. 1. It is given to Wager in the 'British Museum Catalogue' on the authority of the appended 'exact catalogue,' which gives him the 'Trial of Chivalry' also.

William Wager has sometimes been erroneously identified with William Gager [q. v.], a writer of Latin tragedies, who was a graduate of Christ Church, Oxford, late in the sixteenth century. William Wager has also been confused with

Lewis Wager (fl. 1566), who became rector of St. James's, Garlickhithe, on 28 March 1560 (Newcourt), and was author of 'A New Enterlude never before this tyme imprinted, entreating of the Life and Repentaunce of Marie Magdalene … made by the learned clarke Lewis Wager.' This was licensed for publication to John Charlewood in 1566, and an edition appeared in that year. It was reissued with the date 1567 on the title-page. The 'enterlude' was acted at the universities. To Lewis Wager is often attributed the 'Cruell Debtter,' which is stated in the 'Stationers' Registers' to be by 'Wager' (without christian name), but its ascription to William seems more likely to be true (cf. Collier, Extract from Stationers' Company Registers, 1557-70, pp. 130, 156; Hazlitt, Bibliographical Collections, 2nd ser.)

[References in text; Ward's English Dramatic Literature, i. 74; Fleay's Chronicle of the English Drama, ii. 267; Hazlitt's Handbook, p. 637; Furnivall's Captain Cox (Ballad Soc); Academy, 9 March 1878.]

R. B.