Major roles: S,M,T,Bar,B; minor roles: 2S,M,2A,3Bar,B,mime
The Poet introduces the story in a spoken Prologue before the curtain rises on his living-room overlooking a London street one night in the fifteenth century. Working on a song commissioned by a Neighbour, he is stuck for a rhyme. The Neighbour comes in, and suggests that the Poet’s Wife might inspire him. The Poet laments that she is dumb, while the Neighbour thinks him lucky. His Wife then enters, and merely her smile enables him to complete his text. Twelve hours later, the street outside is busy with tradesmen of all sorts. The Maid rushes in to announce a miraculous Doctor in the city, one who can cure all ills. The Poet has him brought in and asks him to give his Wife her power of speech. The Doctor agrees, for five ducats and a kiss. The Doctor then ‘operates’, successfully, takes his money and departs; he is refused the kiss by the Wife who, her tongue now loosened, proves ill-humoured and slaps him instead. Rather than talk of love with her husband, she wishes to chivvy up the servants. Three Women arrive to gossip, but she accuses them of chasing after her husband and drives them away. Then she attacks the Maid for feeding the Blind Beggar, and throws her out too. Driven to distraction by her behaviour, the Poet cries out ‘The Devil take you!’, and the Devil appears. He tries to whisk her off, but she has the better of the tussle, and the Poet offers to go instead, to get away from her. Left alone on stage, the Wife smiles and explains the moral to the audience.