Mingo (or Myngs)
Bristol Mayors' Audit Books
Mayor's Audit Book 10. (20–26 October 1577)
- Item paid to my Lord of Leycesters Players at the end of their Play in the yeld hall before master mayer and the Aldremen and for lyngkes to geve light in the evenyng the play was called Myngo. the sume of . . . xxij s.
- (Bristol Record Office, BCC/F/Au/1/11, p. 214; qtd. REED: Bristol 115.)
Alternative transcriptions of this entry are discussed in Critical Commentary below.
Performed by Leicester's Men in the Bristol Guildhall, sometime between 20 October and 26 October 1577.
Comedy (?) (Wiggins).
Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues
The title evokes the Latin word "Mingo, gere, to make water, to pysse" (Elyot, s.v. "mingo").
"Monsieur Mingo" was the title of a song describing the prodigious drinking of the eponymous Frenchman that appears in several musical manuscripts of the period (Cutts; Sternfeld; CELM NaT 7). An early witness is Bodleian Library, MS Mus. f. 16-19, part books compiled c. 1641–62 by Thomas Hammond of Hawkedon, Suffolk. The words in the Bodleian MS appear as follows:
- Mounsier Mingo for quaffing doth pass
- In cup, cruse, can or glass;
- In cellar never was his fellow found
- To drinke profound,
- By task and turne so round
- To quaffe carouse so sound,
- And yet bear so fresh a braine
- Sans taint or staine,
- Or foile, refoile, or quarrell
- But to the beere and barrell
- Where he workes to win his name,
- Where he workes to win his name!
- And stout doth stand
- In Bacchus' band
- With pott in hand
- To purchase fame,
- For he calls with cup and can:—
- "Come, try my courage, man to man,
- And let him conquer me that can,
- And spare not.
- I care not;
- While hands can heave the pott
- No feare falls to my lott.
- God Bacchus do me right
- And dub me knight,
- (qtd. Brougham 279–80)
In the Bodleian MS, these words are set to Orlando Lasso's "Un jour vis un foulon." Hammond's copy of the printed Recueil du mellange d’Orlande de Lassus (London, 1570), currently at the Folger, shows that he inscribed "Mounser mingo" beside Lasso's song: "So an English drinking song was fitted to the music of a sprightly French love song" (Wilson 65).
The song seems to have been in circulation well before the earliest manuscript witnesses, as is apparent from allusions to it in sixteenth-century drama. In Thomas Nashe's Summer's Last Will and Testament, it is sung to accompany the entrance of Bacchus:
- Mounsieur Mingo, for quaffing doth surpasse,
- In Cuppe, in Canne, or glasse.
- God Bacchus doe mee right,
- And dubbe mee knight Domingo. (Nashe, Pleasant sig. F1r)
A slighter fragment of the song appears in 2 Henry IV: Falstaff, in the company of Shallow and Silence, announces "Why, now you have done me right!" whereupon Silence responds by singing the lines, "Do me right, / And dub me knight— / Samingo" (5.3.71–74), thus testifying to its familiarity at the close of the sixteenth century. It is also alluded to by Balurdo in Marston's Antonio and Mellida: "I appeale to your mouthes that heard my song. / Doe me right, and dub me knight Balurdo" (sig. H4r). (Since this speech follows Balurdo's performance of an unindentified song, it may well be that this song was in fact "Monsieur Mingo" and that his speech extrapolates on the song's final lines.)
The name Mingo is also used derogatorily in other contexts. Nashe, in Pierce Penilesse, uses it as a generically French name when he describes a faux-worldly Englishman who visits Dieppe and returns to "talke English through ye teeth like Iaques Scabd-hams, or Monsieur Mingo de Moustrap" (sig. B2r). In The First Part of the Return of Parnassus, Ingenioso addresses a contemptuous aside to the foppish Gullio: "why Mounsier Mingo, is youre asses head growne proude with scratchinge, thinkest thou a man of art can endure thy base vsage?" (ll. 1444–46; Leishman 204; cited in WIlson 12). Henry Fitzgeffrey uses the name "Mingo" for a self-interested physician in his epigram "In Medicum" (sig. C3v): the usage here is perhaps related to the word's Latin denotation, "I urinate."
The variant "Monsieur Domingo," alluded to in Nashe's Summer's Last Will and Testament, is also found elsewhere in relation to prodigious drinking. The name is used as the beer-swilling subject of the first epigram in Samuel Rowland's The Letting of Humours Blood in the Head-Vaine (1600):
- Monsieur Domingo is a skilfull man,
- For much experience he hath lately got,
- Prouing more Phisick in an Alehouse can
- Then may be found in any Vinthers pot. (sig. A4r)
The poem goes on to describe Monsieur Domingo praising the merits of beer only until he can afford to drink wine. In Middleton's The Owl's Almanac (1618), the name appears in a prognostication for brewers labelled "New Dubbing": "Monsieur Domingo Knight of the malthoop, has enacted against Sippers and Sparrowinchers, but those that take off their liffe by quantus shall be dub'd on a barrell head" (sig. G1r). (This dense passage imagines "Monsieur Domingo" inveighing against those who consume beer in small doses—sparrow-like "inches"—and rewarding those who drink it by the yard, "quantus," with knighthood [Rhodes 1296n].) The name "Domingo" is also invoked in another drinking song of the period: "drinke good beere, & wine, / vntill thy nose wth ruby coulour shine / Aduance the can, / thou tall yeoman, / Domingo" (Giles Earle's book, c. 1615–26, British Library, Add. MS 24665, f. 36r; Jorgens vol. 1; qtd. Greer 114).
References to the Play
No certain references known. (It may be that the "Monsieur Mingo" song originated with the play, but the possibility must remain speculative.)
Collier, reporting the findings of a "Mr. Tyson" of Bristol, reproduced the relevant excerpt from the Mayor's Audit Book, in which the play's title was transcribed "Myngs" (viii). Collier commented: "What may have been the subject of the performance called Myngs […] perhaps it would be vain to conjecture."
Latimer, researching his history of sixteenth-century Bristol, announced his dramatic findings and transcribed the title of the present play as "Myngo" ("Elizabethan" 444; cf. Sixteenth-Century 64).
Murray, in his edition of the Bristol accounts, transcribed the play's title as "Myngs" (2.214).
Chambers agreed with Collier and Murray that "Myngs" was "more likely to be palaeographically accurate" than "Myngo," while recognizing the echo of the latter in Summer's Last Will and 2 Henry IV (ES 2.89).
Sternfeld, in his survey of the transmission of Orlando Lasso's "Un jour vis un foulon" and its English afterlife as "Monsieur Mingo", suggests that the play at Bristol may have featured a musical performance: "Hence, the song may have been in existence on the English stage less than a decade after the music was printed in London" (113n).
Wilson suggests that the early modern allusions to "Mingo" all refer to the same personality, whether real or fictional (65-66). He similarly connects the Bristol performance to the song: "The music had already been on sale in London for seven years, and the English words perhaps already fitted to the tune."
Duffin, like Sternfeld, suggests that the English version of the song "Monsieur Mingo" may date back to the 1577 performance (265).
Wiggins, drawing the connection to the song, also notes Nashe's use of Monsieur Mingo de Mousetrap as a "name for a generic Frenchman" (164). He also suggests that Leicester's Men were paid £1, with the remaining 2s covering the cost of the links (165).
For What It's Worth
It is perhaps just possible that the performance by Leicester's Men was related to the Spanish Coplas de Mingo Revulgo, an immensely popular pastoral allegory that went through twenty-five editions between between 1485 and 1632 (Stern 313). Taking the form of a dialogue between Mingo Revulgo and Gil Arribato, the poem is a thinly veiled political satire in which the head shepherd (Henry IV of Castile) is condemned for shirking his duties as the head of state, thereby imperiling the kingdom. While the immediate topicality of the Coplas faded, the poem remained widely read and had a decisive influence on the Spanish drama of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, especially the pastoral allegories of Juan del Encina, Francisco de Madrid, the Bachiller de la Pradilla, Fernán López de Yanguas, and Diego de Ávila (Stern 323–32). Even if Leicester's Men did not offer an adaptation of the original Spanish poem, perhaps the character of Mingo Revulgo might have provided a convenient precedent for railing against the Spanish king.
Another distinct possibility may be Saint Mungo (or Kentigern), a sixth- and seventh-century bishop of Glasgow and a contemporary of the Irish Saint Colme (Columba). The chronicle histories tell of Mungo greeting Colme during his visit to Scotland, and their six-month sojourn together at a monastery at Dunkeld. For Colme, the experience demonstrated the exemplary religiosity of the Scots and their king:
- Sanct Mungo returnit to Glasquew and sanct Colme to Ireland, and schew to ye princis thairof, how plesandly he was tretit amang the Scottis and pichtis, quhat feruent desire thay had to his preching, bot ane thing was thair aboue all meruellis sene be hym afore. Conwallus kyng of scottis nochtwithstanding his princely estait and riches (quhilkis suld induce hym mair to pleseir than virtew) was na les religious than ony othir prelat or kirkman in his realme. (Boece sig. 2A4v; cf. Holinshed, Scotland 137).
However, while Mungo was the subject of medieval hagiographies and became a cult figure in Scotland, his story does not seem to have been widely available in print to English readers.
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