Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay Summary

Summary (Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

When Prince Edward returns from hunting in a downcast mood, Lacy remarks on his lord’s temper. It remains for Ralph, the court fool, to hit on the truth. The hunting party stopped for refreshments at the keeper’s lodge in Fressingfield Park, and Prince Edward fell in love with Margaret, the keeper’s daughter.

Plans are laid to win Margaret’s love for Edward, but the maid is modest and will keep her virtue for her husband. Ralph proposes that Edward dress in the jester’s motley and that Ralph dress as the prince. They will then go to Oxford and enlist the help of Friar Roger Bacon, since only magic will win over the girl. Lacy is to go to the fair at Harleston to spy on Margaret there and to press a suit on behalf of the prince.

At Oxford, Friar Bacon and his poor scholar Miles receive a deputation of learned doctors. Burden, their spokesman, asks about certain rumors they hear. It is said that Friar Bacon fashioned a great head of brass and with it he is going to raise a wall of brass around all of England. Bacon admits that he planned such a project. Burden doubts that even Friar Bacon can accomplish such a mighty deed.

To demonstrate his power, Friar Bacon has a devil bring a tavern host from Henley, a woman with whom Burden spent the previous day. Thus the doctors are convinced of Bacon’s powers. At Harleston, Lacy approaches Margaret. Although the earl is dressed as a farmer, his manners are so elegant that Margaret is attracted to him. Lacy has a mind to press a suit in his own behalf.

At court, meanwhile, King Henry receives the king of Castile, his daughter Elinor, and the Emperor of Germany. Negotiations are under way to betroth Elinor to Prince Edward. The princess, having seen a portrait of Edward, is much inclined to love the prince. The emperor brings with him a German conjurer, Vandermast, to test his powers against the wise men of England. The royal party departs for Oxford to find Friar Bacon.

With the jester disguised as the prince and Edward disguised as a gentleman in waiting, the prince’s party meets the friar and Miles at Oxford. An argument develops between Miles and the others. To save his scholar, Friar Bacon freezes Edward’s sword in its scabbard. After rebuking the prince for trying to disguise himself, he invites Edward into his cell. There he lets the prince look into a magic glass that shows Margaret and Lacy at Fressingfield.

Friar Bungay is revealing the secret of Lacy’s identity to Margaret as Edward watches from afar. Margaret is troubled, for she is in love with Lacy. When Lacy enters, he declares at once his desire to wed Margaret. Friar Bungay is about to perform the ceremony on the spot, but the anguished prince calls on Friar Bacon to stop the wedding. The friar obliges by striking Bungay mute and whisking him away to Oxford.

Edward, posting to Fressingfield in great haste, charges Lacy...

(The entire section is 1193 words.)